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Millennials Seek Emotional Brand Connections

Millennials rank restaurant chains such as McAlister's Deli high in social responsibility and food quality, according to a study.

The Millennial generation – a demographic currently ranging from age 19 to 34 - has a distinct perspective on restaurants, placing more value on attributes such as social responsibility, sustainability, local, and organic, grass-fed, and hormone-free offerings, according to a recent study by research firm Technomic.

Technomic says Millennials are unique in the way they communicate and are self-expressive, confident, liberal, upbeat, and open to change. Marketing to them can be a challenge; however, millennials foster emotional connections to brands and their loyalty stems beyond experience. 

“Millennials visit restaurants more frequently than any other generation,” says Darren Tristano, Technomic Executive Vice President. “Restaurant operators are making consistent efforts to track the purchasing habits of Millennials and appeal to their unique need states. Success with today’s Millennial consumer will depend on making an emotional connection and setting expectations.” 

Technomic’s new study for suppliers, Understanding the Foodservice Attitudes and Behaviors of Millennials, provides consumer and operator insights across restaurant and non-commercial accounts, in addition to operators' best practices and unmet needs. The research firm also publishes a Consumer Restaurant Brand Metrics program, which benchmarks restaurant performance against their peers and tracks results over time. Among 50 dimensions evaluated by the program, Millennials gave top marks to the following chains, by segment, on three highly-valued attributes: 

Social Responsibility - Acting in a way that is good for the environment, treating employees well.

  • In-N-Out Burger – Quick Service
  • McAlister’s Deli – Fast Casual
  • Cracker Barrel Old Country Store – Family-Style
  • Logan’s Roadhouse – Casual Dining

Food Quality - For Millennials, food quality goes beyond taste and visual appeal, also incorporating sourcing elements such as grass-fed and free-range into their quality perception.

  • Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich Shop – Quick Service
  • McAlister’s Deli – Fast Casual
  • Cracker Barrel Old Country Store – Family-Style
  • Red Lobster – Casual Dining

Supports local community activities – Makes charitable contributions, supports community organizations.

  • Chik-fil-A – Quick Service
  • Corner Bakery Cafe – Fast Casual
  • Bob Evans – Family-Style
  • Bonefish Grill – Casual Dining

Academic research published earlier this year found that the Millennial generation is less concerned about the environment than previous generations.

Bart King is a PR/marketing communications consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications.

Bart King is the principal of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. He is also Associate Editor of Sponsored Content for Sustainable Brands. Follow him @bart_king [Read more about Bart King]

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