What Millennials Want in a Restaurant

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It’s amazing to think about, but millennials are now the generation that the food and lifestyle industries need to target. Millennials make up several demographics that restaurants cater to — people in their 20s to 40s, single people, married people, people with children, and people with full-time jobs. Actually, millennials officially became the largest generation group in the United States in 2022, so no one can deny that they’re a significant market to appeal to! 

Catering to millennials and younger generations like Gen Z is a given, but how do you attract a younger crowd to your restaurant? Well, there are many millennial dining trends that you can tap into to turn your restaurant into a hub for millennials and Gen Zers.

Who Are Millennials, and Why Should I Care?

“Millennials” is the term for the group of people born between about 1980 and 2000. There is some wiggle room in this definition, and it has been updated a few times, with one of the most popular definitions including anyone born between 1981 and 1996.

Their coming-of-age experiences at the turn of the millennium have defined millennials. They grew up immersed in a period of rapidly evolving technology and are the first digitally native generation. Your average millennial has vague memories of ancient technology like dialup, corded landlines, and floppy disks, but they are also comfortable adopting new tech as it rolls out. Millennials were also at a crucial developmental stage during the recession of 2008, which heavily influenced their attitudes and habits regarding spending and saving.

In the early 2000s, you would have been hard-pressed to find a headline that said anything positive about millennials. The media portrayed them as a strange new generation with new ideas, and many industries failed to take their unique preferences seriously. But now that millennials are the largest generation in the country, no business or restaurant can afford to ignore their financial clout. 

Unless your business model is for a specific age group, you should include efforts to attract millennials and younger generations in your marketing strategy.

What About Those Born in the Late 1990s and Early 2000s?

Members of Generation Z were born roughly between 1996 and 2010. They’ve never known anything but the digital age and are even more deeply involved with technology than their millennial predecessors. In a world overrun with constant content feeds where every online interaction can be an advertisement, a search for truth defines the Generation Z cohort. Like millennials, they value authenticity while embracing digitization.

Gen Z is much more culturally aligned with millennials than millennials are with baby boomers, so catering to millennial customers often means drawing in members of Generation Z as well. While younger members of Gen Z don’t yet have the financial clout millennials do, taking their preferences into account is a smart way to future-proof your business.

Lasting Food Trends for Millennials and Gen Z

Picking up on the latest trends is a good way restaurants for millennials can stay ahead of the game. However, remember that not every trend is a keeper. Here are six Gen Z and millennial restaurant trends that show no signs of dying down.

  1. Communal eating: Millennials and Generation Z are more likely to view eating out as a shared event and eager to dine in large groups. Whether they’re meeting new people or out with a bunch of old friends, these demographics view eating out as a celebration to share.
  2. Snacks and small plates: Along with a preference for communal eating comes a desire for more options in portion size. Millennials and Generation Z like to mix, match, and share, so a menu full of single entree sizes won’t draw their interest.
  3. Order customization: Millennials and Generation Z aren’t into one-size-fits-all ordering. With an increase in the number of apps that offer custom ordering options, restaurants have to provide more pathways for customization. After all, even Taco Bell lets you build unique orders through their app.
  4. Social engagement: Many millennials are more likely to be loyal to a business that engages with feedback on social media. If your restaurant has no social media presence, you’re missing out on a valuable marketing tool that keeps millennials and Generation Z coming back.
  5. Insta-worthy vibes: While on the topic of social media, the younger generation loves unique experiences that they can share on their social feeds. While you should always prioritize taste, food presentation also matters these days. Your restaurant can create menu items that look captivating enough to share online. 
  6. Fast-casual cuisine: Generation Z isn’t interested in elaborate, expensive dining experiences. They prefer fast-casual and limited-service restaurants over regular full-service restaurants. Think Chipotle or Blaze Pizza. Customers who eat here want to get in and out with no wait and no hassle.

Overall, both millennials and Generation Z want to feel more connected to their dining experiences and expect a measure of interactivity from restaurants. Their quest for authenticity leads them to seek out new experiences and genuine connections to food and beverages, as well as the environments in which they can enjoy them.

10 Ways Restaurants Can Capture Millennials and Generation Z

If you want the positive attention of millennials and Gen Z for your restaurant, you need to understand Gen Z and millennial dining habits, as well as their view on life in general. Both generations strike an amazing balance between wanting life’s greatest experiences now and being mindful of the future — you can see both these mindsets at play in their restaurant habits.

We’ve got 10 tips to help you update your image and draw in millennials and Generation Z customers.

1. Offer Healthy Meals and Drinks

Millennials and younger generations are more health-conscious than previous generations. They prioritize their mental well-being and focus on healthier food choices. To reflect these ideals, focus on offering a good selection of flavorful foods that are packed with vitamins and fresh ingredients. One popular food trend that you can easily incorporate into your healthy menu is superfoods. Superfoods are nutritionally dense foods like salmon, dark leafy greens, berries, eggs, legumes, seeds, kefir, olive oil, ginger and avocado. 

According to dieticians, the concept of a superfood isn’t a very accurate one — it’s mostly used for marketing purposes — but that doesn’t mean you can’t promote menu items that are packed with antioxidants, proteins, good fatty acids, and probiotics. 

Here are a few ideas for your healthy menu: 

  • Grain bowls: Create healthy grain bowls with quinoa, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, or fish.
  • Acai smoothie bowls: Blend up kefir, berries, seeds, and other fruit.
  • Plant-based burgers: Cook up black bean burger patties complete with fresh veggies for garnish.
  • Drinks: Probiotic drinks like kombucha or ice teas with honey instead of sugar are sure to be winners. 

2. Create a Culturally Diverse Menu

For millennials and Gen Zers, food is an adventure to embark on, and the more diverse that experience can be, the better. 

While many millennials and Gen Zers love to travel and wish they could experience different cultures, that isn’t always a possibility due to finances and work constraints. The next best thing is exploring new cultures from the comfort of home. Millennials and Gen Z have a palette for authentic foods from around the world. While staples like Mexican, Chinese, and Italian remain a favorite with millennials and Gen Z alike, Japanese, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, and Indian food are becoming increasingly popular.

The key to offering global foods is to ensure the dishes are as authentic as possible. The menu items should also match your restaurant’s brand. For example, it probably wouldn’t make sense to put Thai noodle soup on the menu if you manage a burger joint. Instead, you could incorporate some recognizable Thai flavors in a new burger or offer side dishes, like a Thai cucumber salad, as an alternative to fries. 

3. Offer Different Portion Sizes


Communal dining is huge, so you don’t want a menu only consisting of single-size entrees. Instead, offer several appetizer options. These customers want to try and share more than one dish each, and offering smaller portion sizes in a mix-and-match format allows them to do just that.

Offering small plates also appeals to price-conscious millennials and Generation Z members who don’t have too much cash on hand. Smaller portions with more affordable price tags give these consumers a chance to enjoy more new experiences in one sitting, thereby increasing the value your establishment can provide.

4. Source Ingredients Locally

Sustainability is more than a passing trend — it is a growing concern across all markets, the food industry included. Both millennials and Gen Zers take it very seriously. Both groups take climate change and sustainability into consideration when they make decisions. 

There are many ways to make your restaurant more sustainable, and one of the most effective involves sourcing ingredients from local suppliers. This helps out local entrepreneurs and improves the local economy while eliminating the need for long-distance shipping, which can help your restaurant achieve a smaller carbon footprint

5. Host Events

One way to harness millennials and Gen Z’s love of novel experiences is to add an event calendar to your repertoire. Old standbys like live music and trivia night make excellent cornerstones for an activity schedule and help your restaurant build up a roster of regulars.

Consider a few outside-the-box activities to keep people engaged. Unique events like sponsoring a dog adoption night or featuring local visual artists set your restaurant apart and provide plenty of Instagram-worthy moments for millennials and Generation Zers to share. For further inspiration on events, check out our article on Events to Increase Foot Traffic at your establishment.

6. Step up Your Social Media Presence

Around 77% of small businesses use social media for marketing — and for good reason. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok allow restaurants to engage with their customer base and build loyalty for free. Millennials spend over two hours every day on social media, and Gen Z logs around three hours of social media time daily. If your restaurant has no social media presence, you’re leaving a crucial marketing tool off the table.

7. Upgrade Your Ambiance

You probably knew millennials love to snap photos of their food, but you probably thought of it as an irritating quirk rather than a marketing point to pursue. However, many of those photos end up on Instagram. If you’re not giving your younger customers an “Instagrammable” experience, they’re likely to go elsewhere in search of a more aesthetically appealing experience.

You don’t need an extensive remodel to make your restaurant more social media-worthy. Upgrades could be as simple as improving the lighting or commissioning artwork by a local artist. Any changes that make your setting stand out are more likely to get you some free social media advertising.


8. Practice Social Responsibility

Corporate responsibility is a big selling point for both younger generations. Both groups expect the businesses they patronize to demonstrate some commitment to local communities and the world at large, and restaurants are not exempt. A full 87% of Americans will choose to buy a product because the company was active on an issue they cared about, and millennials, in particular, are more likely to research a company’s contributions.

It’s not hard for a restaurant to show some good citizenship, and it can go a long way toward building a loyal customer base. Your restaurant can donate time, space, or money to cement your status as an active member of the community. Sponsoring food drives, starting a composting program, or contributing to local initiatives is a good way to position your establishment as a valuable part of the community.

9. Create Custom Menus

Having a variety of options is an absolute must for Gen Z and millennials. With the world being so digitized and everything being available online, the younger generation knows that they don’t have to settle for anything less than what they can get elsewhere. With food, this means the ability to customize menu options — within reason, of course. Millennials and Gen Z guests may ask if you can alter a meal or beverage option to be vegan, gluten-free, nonalcoholic, without oil, baked instead of fried, smaller, bigger, and so on! While you likely cannot cater to their every whim and fancy, finding alternatives and marketing them can really up your appeal with Gen Z and millennials.

You can also focus on providing meals they can’t get elsewhere. After all, you can go pretty much anywhere and get an order of wings and a beer. If your restaurant can offer a dish or drink customers won’t find elsewhere, you’re more likely to attract millennials and members of Generation Z to your establishment. Whether you focus on unusual flavor pairings or fare unique to the region, having at least one signature item can be your claim to fame among these two demographics.

10. Increase Self-Serve Opportunities

Millennials and Gen Z grew up in the age of technology, and many of them love any opportunity to skip unnecessary human interactions. As such, they often enjoy having self-serve options. Gen Z, in particular, prefers self-serve options. For restaurant owners or managers, there are various ways you can offer self-serve options to your younger customers. You can, of course, have apps and touch screens in-store that let customers place their orders electronically, but there are also other innovative options you can consider. 

Self-serve drink systems have been making waves for a while now and continue to grow more popular — operators with self-serve bar systems enjoy an average increase of 39% in alcohol sales after installing self-pour technology like PourMyBeer. Self-pour walls in bars and food establishments come with many advantages that millennials and Gen Z really appreciate. Both generations are very comfortable using any kind of technology and like the self-efficiency. With self-serve beverage options, guests do not have to wait to be served and can still enjoy a variety of perfectly poured drinks. 

For restaurant and bar managers, self-pour technology makes your establishment more efficient since you know customers are paying for every ounce that they drink. Self-pour systems also provide everything you need, including reliable ID verification and payment methods. 

Become a Millennial Magnet With PourMyBeer

Millennials and Generation Z want the newest tech, and they want it to work correctly every time. The PourMyBeer self-serve wall tap system gives them the cutting-edge functionality they want, with the reliability you need for peace of mind. When we created our self-pour tech, we focused on creating a wall tap system that customers love. Our operators and their customers love that our tech does not come with any operational hassle.

The PourMyBeer system has room for up to four taps per screen and runs on hardware built to last. There’s no need for Wi-Fi, no need to worry about random OS updates thanks to our proprietary Linux system, and A/C power allows us to put our valves and flow meters up to 50 feet away from the tap wall.

Oh, and one perk no other system can beat: There’s no foam.

Implementing a new technology like a self-serve tap wall can feel daunting, so we designed our system to be as intuitive and reliable as possible. To make things even easier, we developed it with POS and other third-party integrations in mind. The PourMyBeer system allows you to check your sales and activity at a glance, check your reports from anywhere, and manage your tap wall with ease. 

If you’re ready to invest in a technology millennials and Generation Z can’t resist, contact us for a quote. Whether you’re poised to make an immediate decision or you’re just curious about what we have to offer, we’re happy to discuss how our features can help turn your restaurant into a millennial hot spot.

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Building 20, Suite 100
Ambler, PA 19002

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