Boomers and the Dining Experience

Boomers and the Dining Experience

Baby boomers are a force to be reckoned with. This large generation includes people born from 1946 to 1965 and represents 26 percent of the total U.S. population. Here’s where it gets interesting for foodservice—they boast an incredible $2.1 trillion purchasing power. How do you attract them to your restaurant? There’s so much more to consider than the food you put on the menu. 

This large group of diners is aging, but they’re still a big part of the seismic shift in foodservice today. Like millennials, Gen X, and Gen Z, boomers are responding to restaurants with open kitchens, communal spaces and more customizable options. In its Future of FSR: Family & Casual Dining Consumer Trend Report, Technomic Inc. reports that boomers are drawn to more upscale chains that promise a unique experience. To attract this diner, the report says to revitalize decor and update menu offerings. 

Menu Design

A few smart strategies can help make boomers more responsive to your foodservice menu. First, like other generations, they enjoy customizing their foods. But the emphasis is healthfulness over global flavors. Consider adding a selection of grilled or roasted vegetables, multi-grain choices like quinoa or brown rice, and fresh herb sauces, like chimichurri or pesto. Lean protein choices are good, too, but make them flavorful—cedar-plank salmon, citrus-infused grilled chicken, and roasted Mesquite turkey are three examples.

On that same track, the second strategy that can help attract boomers is adding a flexible menu, where these older diners can design meals around smaller portions. Mindful snacking, Technomic reports, is important to boomers, who not only like to dine out earlier than younger generations, but they also look for menus that cater to their smaller appetites. A dining experience that provides bar bites, half portions, and shareables is appealing. Refresh the idea of the early-bird special, keeping flavor keenly in the crosshairs but catering to their boomer lifestyles. 

With boomers actively seeking better-for-you menu fare, think about making the dining experience easier by adding calorie counts and nutritional information to the menu.

The other elements of menu design are more ergonomic. As boomers age, some of them may experience compromised hearing and vision. Make your menu easier to read by ensuring appropriate lighting and a readable font size with a color that’s easy to see. Consider lowering the level of background music and add rugs to help absorb the loud sounds of busy restaurants. 

Service is King

Exceptional service is important to most customers, but even more so with boomers. This was demonstrated during Technomic’s recent generational roundtable discussion, where boomers placed more importance on service than any other cohort. Service for baby boomer isn’t just about speed, friendliness, and accuracy. Those ergonomic touches mentioned above demonstrate a sensitivity to the needs of this population. In an NPD Group survey, boomers also noted that they look for comfortable restaurant seating.

Tap into Boomer Loyalty

All foodservice operators want repeat customers. Boomers are an extremely loyal bunch, according to several industry reports. They also look for value. One way to build a dedicated following with boomers is through a loyalty program, where frequent dining gets rewarded with discounts and coupons. 

With thoughtful, smart strategies that don’t call on revamping your entire restaurant, you can make tweaks that will bring in boomers—a consumer group with impressive numbers and  huge purchasing power.