Young people ages 15-28, labeled “Millennials” by most marketers, are 75 million strong in America and are set to be the biggest generation in history. According to the Center for Culinary Development (CCD) this group of American young people is made up of demanding consumers with a clear idea of what they want and when they want it.
“These people get bored really easily,” says Kara Nielsen, trendologist at CCD, “so they’re always looking for something new which works really well for the quick-serves.”
Before quick-serve operators begin feeling too confident, however, the data also shows this group is the most ethnically diverse demographic in history, which makes it difficult to peg them into one homogeneous culinary category. Generally Millennials are adventurous when it comes to food—a trait the CCD says their Baby Boomer parents taught them.
“They feel that everyone has their own individual taste,” Nielsen says. “Consequently, they really respond to being able to make their food taste the way they want it to taste and also having the ingredients on it they want.” Millennials, for example, might go out for a healthy meal and as a result want to remove the more indulgent ingredients from the offering.
According to the CCD’s findings, Millennials seek out this type of customization across all dayparts. The rise in popularity of build-your-own-burger concept and customizable-mix-in ice cream stores is proof.
Nielsen warns operators to not get carried away, though. “Things can get too busy for them; that’s a turn off,” she says. “Certainly the young guys pick those super-loaded burgers and love them, but in our research we found that there was a point for some menu items, especially morning items, that there was just too much going on.”
Quick-service and casual-dining have always been a presence in Millennials’ food choices—they are too young to remember any different. As a result, they are savvy foodservice users. According to Nielsen, Millennials feel comfortable using a variety of brands to satisfy different cravings.
“The craving on one day could be that they partied all weekend and need a little break, so they’ll look for a more healthful option versus on the weekend with friends they want to indulge at Ben & Jerry’s,” Nielsen says. “I think growing up with fast-food choices has made it part of their variety of life; they can always try to find exactly what they want, whenever they want it.”