Consumers 16 to 34 are indeed different than older consumers when it comes to dining out, dining in, grocery shopping and apparel shopping behaviors and preferences, confirms a new study from The Boston Consulting Group.
For the study, “Millennial Passions: Food, Fashion and Friends,” BCG surveyed 4,000 Millennials and 1,000 non-Millennials (ages 35 to 74).
Dining Out Habits, Preferences
Restaurant meals and drinks rank high on Millennials’ list of what they like to spend their money on—above consumer electronics, apparel, footwear, beauty, cosmetics and accessories.
On average, they also spend slightly more on dining out than non-Millennials, and they eat out more often (3.4 versus 2.8 times a week). Males and Hispanic males in particular eat out more often.
* Prefer fast-casual dining venues such as Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Pei Wei Asian Diner, although they also often patronize casual-dining venues such as Olive Garden, Applebee’s, Chili’s and The Cheesecake Factory. They also prefer Asian, exotic and organic foods more than non-Millennials (who prefer seafood and steak).
*Are more likely to get food to go than to dine in the restaurant, particularly at breakfast.
* Are more likely to eat out with friends and coworkers than non-Millennials (65% versus 43%), and get more social value out of casual dining than non-Millennials.
* Eat at restaurants during off-peak hours twice as much as non-Millennials – a behavior that appears to be generational, not just related to life stage.
But Millennials are far from homogenous; subgroups differ in regard to their priorities for restaurants. For instance, “Gadget Gurus” (typically male and the generation’s most frequent restaurant goers) want great-tasting food and convenience, whereas “Hip-ennials” (primarily female and the largest segment) want customized and error-free orders, friendly/attentive service, good value and an orderly, clean environment.
Millennial segments also report somewhat different emotional needs related to dining out. In general, however, they want to feel like they are “experiencing something new,” and they care more about late-night dining, convenience, décor, menu/drink variety, entertainment and Wi-Fi. (Challenging restaurants to meet their needs without turning off older consumers.)
In addition to offering fast(er) service, ready-to-eat and to-go options, food/beverage combinations that include exotic, organic and local ingredients, and entertainment experiences, BCG recommends that restaurants provide innovative services for large parties and technology options that enhance the dining experience. And of course, that they use digital, mobile and social media promotions, as well as advocacy marketing.
Dining In and Food Shopping
Millennials prefer farm-to-table and organic foods (they care twice as much about organic food than non-Millennials), and are willing to "trade up" for fresh produce and prepared or organic foods.
They’re also more likely than non-Millennials to love cooking and to consider themselves experts in the kitchen (64% versus 52%) – and they enjoy exotic and diverse foods and creative menu ideas.
A major point for food and beverage manufacturers: Millennials still prefer branded foods, and perceive them as offering noticeably higher quality – but economic realities (including having children) tend to drive purchases of store brands.
When it comes to food shopping, Millennials exhibit preferences that are likely to stick with them as they get older, reports BCG.
Millennials at all income levels are less aware than non-Millennials of traditional grocery chains such as Albertsons and Safeway – they prefer club, specialty and convenience food-store formats.
However, there’s a gap between where Millennials say that they would like to shop (chains such as SuperTarget, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Costco) and where they actually shop (one-third shop at Walmart Supercenters).
Nearly half (47%) of female Millennials and a substantial 38% of male Millennials report shopping for clothing more than twice a month (versus 36% and 10% of female and male non-Millennials, respectively).
Regardless of demographics and income levels, male Millennials spend twice as much annually on clothing as non-Millennials, and female Millennials outspend older females by about a third (although personal clothing purchases decline in Millennial households with children).
Both male and female Millennials are knowledgeable about clothing and have definite brand preferences. While there is some overlap (Levi’s, Gap and American Eagle Outfitters, for example), the two sexes’ preferred brands generally differ. Also, men are more apt to stick with a relatively few brands, although when they try and are converted to a new brand, they tend to stay loyal longer than women do.
More detail on Millennials’ preferences and behaviors in all three of these consumer arenas, as well as more specific advice for restaurant operators and retailers from BCG, are available in an article on BCG’s site (with registration).