There are plenty of stereotypes surrounding millennials. Their supposed fascination with avocados, reluctance to leave the family home, and obsession with social media have become tropes of this generation. But it would be foolish to disregard their emerging influence as a spending powerhouse.
In the Gulf, the combined millennial and Generation Z — people born between 1980 and the mid-2000s — population is 63 per cent, according to a HSBC Private Banking report. Millennials are now at the age where they’ve finished university and entered the workforce. They’re affluent, socially-conscious, and tech savvy.
As such, the F&B industry must respond to the prevailing tastes, and there are some specific attributes of millennial life to look out for. We’ll explore five of the most prominent.
A key characteristic of the generation, particularly in the UAE, is spending power. The same HSBC report shows that they are the backbone of a middle-class with an average workday 20 per cent higher than other millennials around the world. This means they have significant amounts of disposable income ... and they’re not afraid to spend it.
But millennials aren’t traditional consumers. They’re not looking for status symbols; research shows they want experiences. For the F&B industry, it’s not enough to be opulent — offerings must tap into the millennial need for an authentic connection.
Technology meets dining
If you’re a millennial, or dined with them, you’re probably familiar with the modern protocol when it comes to eating out. The food arrives, and before anyone takes a bite, out come the phones to capture the meal for posterity. Depending on the dedication of the photographer, several minutes might be lost to finding the right angle, the perfect lighting, or a slight rearrangement of the plate for optimal Insta impact.
Instagram has become the platform for flexing your meals. That’s not the only way that technology intersects with dining. Millennials use their smart devices to find out where they’re going to eat, drink, and socialise.
Generation Y relies on impartial reviews of others, using platforms such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook, and good old trusty Google to choose a destination that’s just right. In fact, a study revealed that two-thirds of people in the GCC select restaurants through social media.
Quality and authenticity
The Organic Trade Association suggest millennials are eating 52 per cent more vegetables and organic meals. Which means, when spending money on food and drinks, they prioritise quality over quantity, and they’re willing to pay for the finer things in life.
The global hospitality organisation Benchmark has found millennials also seek out dining experiences that are ethnically-diverse, interesting, and authentic. A challenge for the F&B industry is to update and refresh menus on a regular basis, to bring a taste of distant lands to their local audience, and to do so with impeccable precision.
With an acute awareness of where their food and drink comes from, millennials actively seek out local, organic ingredients and look favourably on businesses that provide them. According to Ignite’s 2016 “Generational Consumer Trend Report”, 28 per cent of millennials think it’s important for restaurants to be socially responsible, while 32 per cent are more likely to visit establishments that demonstrate this kind of commitment.
This also plays a part in explaining the exponential rise in the adoption of vegan lifestyles. Although they’ve historically been hard to find, restaurants that cater to plant-based diets are on the rise in the UAE.
As you can see, millennials represent an exciting opportunity for evolution within the F&B sector ... if you can keep up.
Priyanka Mittal is Director of KRBL ltd.