Three Ways Restaurants Can Use Technology to Keep up with Millennials
This thought leadership piece from Gather, an event software provider for restaurants and venues, offers three tips for connecting with millennials.
Whether you love them or love to complain about them, millennials are a hot topic — and for good reason. Making up nearly a quarter of the U.S. population, with spending power and social influence on the rise, this demographic is already changing the face of many industries — including, or even especially, the restaurant and hospitality industry.
Millennials are going out to eat more than other age groups — 53% go out to eat once a week, compared to 43% for the general population. When they do, they are increasingly looking for a meal that is special and exclusive. They view food as an experience, and one that they most like to enjoy with friends or in a group (even if they don’t know them — more than half of millennials prefer the “communal table” if it’s offered). So it’s no surprise that all these factors (bolstered by the desire to enjoy a truly Instagram-able meal) are leading more millennials to look in the direction of private dining.
For restaurant owners, this reality can be lucrative. The earning potential is high for private dining and small events (particularly when considering millennial business diners — who are apt to spend 1.6 to 1.8 times more than casual diners). It’s also one more area to manage on top of daily demands and tight margins. It’s not clear, however, that the perceived difficulty around coordinating these dinners outweighs the money they may be leaving on the table.Restaurants can use technology like event management software to overcome this barrier and live up to their full earning (and booking!) potential, allowing owners to manage every step of the process seamlessly. This article breaks down three ways to take advantage of technology to keep up with millennial demand — and expectations — for private dining.
1. Play to their patience level
Millennials are often characterized as being lazy, but that’s a misunderstanding of their desire for efficiency — and nothing answers that need better than technology. Having to call multiple restaurants to get prices, menus and availability for an event, then waiting on responses and comparing options before making a decision? Forget about it: this antiquated, time-consuming and (frankly) annoying process will turn most millennials away from even considering a restaurant to host an event.
Instead, restaurants should look to online booking for private events in the same way they offer online booking for general reservations. Solutions exist that allow the customer to use a restaurant’s website to confirm the details of their event (date, party size, room, menu), secure their reservation with a credit card, and have that submitted as a confirmed booking directly on the venue’s calendar for that location. It’s easy for the customer and much more efficient for the restaurant.
2. Meet them where they are
Restaurant owners understandably want to offer a high-touch and personalized service experience to private diners, but the old-school concierge doesn’t necessarily work with this demographic. This is also true when it comes to communication. Phone calls, in-person meetings, printed packets: most millennial customers will find these outdated and inefficient. Instead, owners and event planners should rework their processes to adopt millennials’ preferred communications channel: email. Most event planning software is built this way anyway, allowing event planners to instantly create and update proposals and contracts and send them out through the system, so communications can easily be tracked and managed.
Similarly, the majority of customers (and especially millennials) are active on social media, and restaurants should be too. Restaurants with a strong social media presence blow their “unsocial” competition out of the water. Be where your customers are. Get set up with a Facebook business page, a Twitter profile, and an Instagram account to promote your daily specials and share drool-inducing photos. Millennials love the option to share their events through social media and tag the location — it’s a win-win for both.
3. Increase speed of service
For restaurant owners, the biggest advantage of adopting technology, for event management in particular or restaurant management in general, is the increased level of organization, insight and speed. This is always important, but particularly critical when it comes to managing all of the nuances of an event, especially when working with a millennial customer who expects quick and efficient service.
Hosting all the event information online through an events management platform allows the event manager to log in to review real-time information about the booking. They can then easily make changes or updates — like adding a guest or swapping out a menu item — that instantly update in the restaurant’s system. Some event management platforms offer integrated mobile apps, so managers have real-time visibility and can respond to requests the moment they come through.
Millennials are demanding more of the businesses they interact with and, with their influence on the rise, many industries are forced to adapt to keep up with their habits. In this instance, though, a demand for more efficient interactions driven by technology is a boon for the restaurant too. Their own processes become more streamlined and efficient, allowing the staff to take on more, and make more money by doing so.