by Jay Kitterman, consultant, LLCC Culinary Institute
One of the great joys of working at Lincoln Land Community College is that it keeps me young and up-to-date on trends.
I often go to meetings where many of the people present are millennials: approximately 18-35 years old. Millennials are the most ethnically and racially diverse group in U. S. history, now numbering more than 80 million. Now in in their late teens to mid-late thirties, millennials are considered confident, optimistic and self-expressive multitaskers who can handle change and adversity. Raised with cell phones and the web, they are technologically very savvy. They use social and mobile media to collect most advice, including where they should dine.
My daughter and son are on the cusp of being millennials, and for recipes or entertaining their first “go to” source is the internet and no longer the Betty Crocker Cook Book.
The Boston Consulting Group last year published a study on the dining habits of millennials. They found that restaurant meals and drinks are high on the list of what they like to spend money on; more than apparel, consumer electronics and even cosmetics. Millennials eat out more than non-millennials (3.4 compared to 2.8 times per week) regardless of their income or household composition. Millennials are more likely to get food to go than to dine at restaurants, particularly at breakfast. This explains the long lines at Starbucks and McDonalds in the morning.
Here are a few more findings from the study:
- Millennials eat at restaurants during off-peak hours.
- They prefer fast, fast casual: takeout, Asian, exotic, healthier, local and organic foods.
- They are more likely to eat out with friends and coworkers.
- They prefer fast casual options such as Panera, Chipotle and Pei Wei Asian Diner.
- They care about décor, drink variety, wifi, late night dining and convenience.
- They like innovative services such as reservation apps, small plates and palate sharing options, separate checks and charging stations.
What do millennials cook?
The most frequent concern or question for a millennial seems to me is “where do I put my phone or tablet so I do not spill on it?” A Kraft foods survey found that while people over 35 tend to print out a recipe, 59 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds cook with either their smartphone or tablet. The smartphone is becoming the ultimate sous chef for millennials. (Carol, looks like another reason you can discard all those food stained recipe cards that you have been saving for our children.) Many millennials are obsessed with food. They talk about it, Tweet about it and proudly post photos of their #cookingburns on Instagram. So it’s no surprise to learn that they are more likely than the rest of us to cook with their electronics at hand.
Food companies are reacting, and Campbell’s has introduced on-the-go microwavable soups called “Go.” This is not your mother’s Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. “Go” comes in flavors like Chorizo and Pulled Chicken and Black Beans, and Cream Red Pepper with Gouda. In a further attempt to modernize and enhance its appeal to younger customers, Campbell’s even abandoned its iconic red and white can, immortalized by Andy Warhol in the 60s, but now perceived by some millennials as old-fashioned. Instead, “Go” uses pouches adorned with a bold, playful design of happy millennials.
What they eat in restaurants?
Millennials are a very important demographic to restauranteurs and chains. Attracting them can be a challenge, for their dining habits are drastically different from their parents’. Their definition of health is one example. While my generation is concerned about calories, millennials care about the food being fresh, less processed and with fewer artificial ingredients and chemicals. They are more concerned about companies with good “social ethics.” They may eat at McDonalds but are often embarrassed for doing so.
A talk with two millennial chefs
What better way to learn about millennials’ food preferences than to talk with a couple of millennial chefs? Aurora and Jordan Coffey are both from Springfield and operate American Harvest Eatery. Jordan started working for Chef Augie Mrozowski right out of high school as a dishwasher and quickly advanced to the “cook line.” Aurora and Jordan moved to Chicago for two years, where Jordan worked in prestigious restaurants (One Sixtyblue and Province) and Aurora attended Robert Morris Culinary School, graduating at the top of her class while working at JoJo and House of Blues. Their mission is to bring “farm-to-table cuisine to a whole other level.” They have developed strong relationships with local farmers, and you will often see them at the local farmers’ markets.
They both feel millennials look for food that is “simple” in preparation (molecular gastronomy is out) as well as fresh, local and good tasting. They agree that millennials like to eat in a group, and dining out is how millennials socially interact. When asked what you would find in their refrigerator or on their shelves at home, they responded, “many condiments, spices, hot sauces, hot mustard and variety of cheeses.” Most nights by the time they get home, they are exhausted and almost tired of looking at food.
They observe that eating out for millennials is not about getting nourishment but interacting with friends and “being part of a group.” They enjoy escaping to Chicago when they can, and lately have been dining more in Champaign – a city dominated by millennials. They develop new menus based on the seasons.
I close my article today with a quote I found from the recently deceased Morley Safer. I am confident many of us that regularly interact with millennials will agree.
“The workplace has become a psychological battlefield and the millennials have the upper hand, because they are tech savvy, with every gadget imaginable almost becoming an extension of their bodies. They multitask, talk, walk, listen and type, and text. And their priorities are simple: they come first.”