While owning your own restaurant is the crowning achievement of many an entrepreneur’s life, the food and beverage industry is notoriously competitive and fraught with challenges.
From an inevitable universal $15 minimum wage by the end of 2019 to supply-and-demand problems, positioning your restaurant as the hottest new place can be difficult, particularly if you’re operating in a densely populated urban area where numerous other restaurants are fighting for the same clientele.
Additionally, the way people are indulging in food is changing. In the era of food delivery services, dine-in restaurants are becoming increasingly difficult to market to the millennial demographic.
Fortunately for restaurant owners, young adults are actually the best cohort to attract. Not only are there a lot of millennials in America, but they’re eating out at exponentially higher rates than other generations.
In spite of the popular narrative about young professionals not having enough disposable income to dine out regularly, over half of all millennials justify good food as a worthwhile expense, even if it means cutting into their savings.
It is exceptionally good news to the restaurant owner that the average millennial eats out five times a week. A combination of increased collective support for local businesses and an appreciation for fine dining has allowed the millennial restaurant industry to stay afloat even in these uncertain times.
1. Develop an aesthetic
From your logo to the lighting, a truly unforgettable dining experience relies on all five senses, plus the added bonus of having Instagram-ready table settings. Purchase furniture that fits the overall vibe, such as hip restaurant chairs and tables, rather than what you think you should do to keep up with the ever-shifting trends.
Even something you may have initially planned on removing, like a set of quirky old-fashioned lamps or a dated wallpaper behind the bar, might turn out to have some hidden charm.
A good rule of thumb is to figure out what captures customers’ eyes. Something as seemingly simple as a wall of exposed brick or a deer head on the wall might draw diners in.
Take San Francisco’s uber-weird Royal Cuckoo bar, known for being the only hang out in the entire Bay Area with live organ performances.
2. Create customer loyalty
Although chefs and restaurant owners understandably hope to prove themselves through the quality of their food alone, the reality is that they must get people to sit down and enjoy a meal before the spark of loyalty is ignited.
The good news is that once millennial diners are sold, they’re likely to tell their friends, their friends’ friends, and their entire Instagram feed. Building and positioning your brand in the Facebook age means, essentially, courting potential influencers.
Older generations focused on thinking locally rather than globally. In today’s changing world, restaurants can reach cult status with young people simply by knowing how to use social media properly.
A solid customer base who can spread the word via social media, plus a few excellent reviews in foodie blogs, will accelerate your restaurant’s popularity.
Even if you don’t live in a tourist-heavy area, you can rely on the social media sphere of influence to drive traffic to your restaurant.
3. Never forget the importance of networking
If you’re an introvert, you might prefer to remain behind the scenes. Your food will ultimately speak for itself, but in order to drive sales, some networking is necessary and may bring you some surprising connections from within the restaurant industry itself.
Consider attending a restaurant industry conference. Not only will you be able to learn from successful industry veterans, but you’ll also be able to market yourself, too.
Before you go, arm yourself with branded merchandise. Nothing says “I’m self-assured and confident” like having custom pens emblazoned with your unique logo on hand.