MILLENNIALS: Who Do We Think We Are? (Part 1 – Millennials As People)

MILLENNIALS:  Who Do We Think We Are?

The 1st in a 5-Part Series:  What Restaurateurs & Business Owners Need to Know About Millennials


Who among us hasn’t rolled our eyes a time or two when the topic of Millennials comes up?  While I would love to say that my eye rolls are subtle, wishful thinking simply doesn’t make that so.  “Engaging Millennials” was the featured topic of a recent Twitter Chat that I participated in with Modern Restaurant Management.  Being a Baby Boomer and the mother of two Millennials myself, I had my own opinions (and, dare I say, concerns) about Millennials and their approach to work, play, and life in general.


While opinions can be great, I wasn’t invited to simply give my opinion but to be a panel expert.  How was I possibly going to be able to do that?!?  If I gave my opinion, I would feel justified but jaded.  If I gave the politically-correct answer, my eyes would probably roll right out of my head.  I owed myself, the Tweeters, and Modern Restaurant Management better than that.  My goal was to do a bit of first-hand research, hoping to impart some wisdom to the restaurateurs and business owners who serve and employ Millennials.


My daughter and her boyfriend were just getting ready to enjoy Happy Hour drinks with a group of friends when I called and asked to interview them.  I’m happy to say that they indulged my request.  A couple hours later, I was armed with expert-worthy commentary and a newfound appreciation for at least some of the quirks that make Millennials a generation unto themselves.


As you might guess from its name, Modern Restaurant Management focuses on restaurants and, therefore, so did my interview questions.  If you are a business owner – and especially a restaurateur – keep reading!  You — and possibly even your employees — may acquire a different appreciation for Millennials and may even develop a new strategy or two for Engaging Millennials.

Part 1:  Millennials As People

One thing that distinguishes Millennials from other demographics is that they have their own way of doing things and proudly attest that they live in their own world.


Millennials want to be different from their parents’ generation, especially when it comes to equality.  When I heard the word ‘equality’, my eyes were rolling in my head like a pinball wildly hitting the bumpers.  Of course they want equality – they want to start at the top of any company and they want to be paid a salary equivalent to what it took their parents twenty years to work up to!  Imagine my surprise when I was corrected.  Millennials’ definition of equality specifically relates to race, gender, and religion and it is one of their highest priorities as a generation. 


“We are very accepting on purpose.  Adults (i.e., our parents’ generation) see and comment on differences; Millennials choose not to.  An example is that adults see tattoos and form opinions/stereotypes (which are often wrong) about the people who have them.  We are the ones who don’t care what color you are, if you’re gay or straight, etc.  We want equality and inclusiveness.  We like and want more of “anything goes”.  If a gay person walks into a restaurant, we want them treated like a customer.  If we see that a restaurant’s employees are blatantly or even subtly disrespectful to any customer, that’s a huge problem.  Not only do we notice it, we spread the word to all of our friends and tell them to not go to a particular business.”




Because they still have good eyesight, Millennials look up EVERYTHING on their phones.  If your online presence is outdated, non-existent, or is not mobile-friendly, you could be missing out on a lot of customers.


Social media sharing is important to Millennials.  “If someone Tweets about enjoying nachos at Taco Bell, others are more likely to also go to Taco Bell,” is a direct quote from a Millennial.  Another direct quote:  “Companies need to have a cause or purpose (beyond making a profit) that resonates with us.  If there is a deal on something, in this case it was an animal shelter that was doing free adoptions for dogs over 3 years old, I shared it.”


“Be very careful how your PR is handled,” are words of wisdom imparted by one of the Millennials I spoke with.  Most people are well aware that social media can be a business owner’s best friend or its worst enemy.  Millennials are proud of their contributions to the social media frenzy and freely boast that “it takes one bad event for Millennials to stop coming to your restaurant.”  Millennials post pictures and videos.  If there is hair in their food, or if they see racism or bad behavior toward a customer, they will use social media to let the world know not only about the incident but also how it was handled.  What this means is that whatever is shareable, good or bad, it is going to get shared – possibly a lot! 


Millennials value experience and quality of life over money.  Not that money isn’t important — and we’ll talk about the consumer spending habits of Millennials in Part 2 of this series — it’s just that Millennials, unlike many of their parents, work to live rather than live to work.  Because they value experience and they tend to do things in groups, if one person in the group has a good experience and either tweets about it or writes an online review, others within the group are likely to join in.  Obviously if their comments are favorable, your business can exponentially benefit.  The pendulum swings both ways so a less-than-favorable experience can cause a domino effect in the opposite direction.  Depending on the circumstances, the effect on your business’s sales can be short-lived, sustaining, or potentially even fatal.  The good news is that Millennials feel they are helping everyone as they share their experiences.  Just as with previous generations, people like to tell their friends about great places they have visited so their friends can do the same.  People also like to spare their friends from the same fate if their experience was not quite up to snuff.  In an evolutionary way, Millennials provide the latest version of word-of-mouth advertising — 2.0, if you will.

Stay tuned for future articles in this series

  • Part 2 – Millennials as Consumers
  • Part 3 – Marketing to Millennials
  • Part 4 – Millennials as Employees
  • Part 5 – Millennials as Business Owners