A Burrito and a Big Problem

It was a warm, lazy day around the suburbs of Atlanta and my friends and I were on a quest to enjoy the reputed best burrito in the ATL. We pulled up to the reigning top shop in town, but to our dismay, we saw the line snaking well out of the door. One of my friends kept it upbeat and encouraged us to enjoy the time together and get into line. For the moment, I ignored the disappointment with the wait, and I decided to switch it up and get something new this time, given that I’m a Millennial and we love to try new things!  Even though twenty-five minutes had passed with us still waiting in line to order, we were so frustrated with and befuddled by the outdated chalk menu boards that when it came time to approach the counter, I had lost all desire to try something new or even to impulsively pay $8.50 for my usual meal.

Sure, Millennials take a lot of things for granted, because we’ve grown up in a world of high-tech conveniences. I never had to walk ten snow covered miles to school in sandals, and while I question how many in the generations before me truly did, I do know that technology has made things much easier and more immediate for me and my peers. A great example is Digital Menu Boards, which can provide memorable, engaging solutions for customers and added connection for businesses. With well-designed content on their Digital Menu Boards, businesses can keep patrons happy and even distracted on an extended wait like we experienced. With the dramatic technology changes and the growing Millennial generation, businesses should think about losing the old-school stories and rules and consider the new age that technology has become a reality during my generation. And don’t hide your head in the sand – technology will breed even more passion for convenience and speed in future generations.

What’s frightening to me is that many casual dining spots don’t see that there is even a problem with how they try to engage their customers and that a reasonable digital signage fix could be the solution. Too often companies live by the motto “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!” They aren’t concerned about the changing makeup of their consumer or whether or not they have a great experience because the long line suggests to them that there isn’t a problem! Now THAT is old school! Millennials are huge fans of convenience and that doesn’t mean we’re lazy. There are times where we simply don’t have the time for prepping and cooking our own food or we want to experiment with food or concoctions that someone else is better at preparing. We enjoy food we can eat with our hands, and we are usually on a budget, so quick and casual restaurants pretty much are the personification of our wants. We want our food to be available wherever we are and whenever we have the inkling. While we may love adventure, Millennials don’t really appreciate surprises. At least, not when it comes to grabbing a quick bite.

While everyone likes to blame the Millennial generation for problems that industries are facing, they fail to see that most of these industries are simply stuck in a marketing-myopia. Marketing-myopia is a short-sighted and inward looking approach to marketing that focuses on the needs of companies instead of defining the company and its products in terms customers’ needs and wants. It results in failure to see and adjust to rapid changes in their markets, like the adoption of digital signage and mobile marketing. Millennials are the group currently between the ages of 20-35, and while on the younger side, we spend 44% of our food consumption dollars – or $2,921 annually – on eating out. Although we may lack the discretionary income of fine-dining Boomers, we are dining out more frequently, making our wants and needs increasingly relevant to restaurants that want to capture a share of the Millennial dollar.

So back to my burrito story. We did order and eat, but we won’t go back. That burrito store is no longer the reigning champ. They demonstrated that they don’t really care about me as a customer, and despite how much I enjoy the food, I’ll move on to a chain that doesn’t make me feel like an afterthought. For all of you restaurant operators who lament that the world is changing (for good or bad,) please also realize that Millennials are not lame excuses for human beings – we’re just different. I might even say we’re a more advanced species, though our children will someday question that! My advice – make the effort to keep pace with us and enjoy the ride. Don’t be hard headed, old school, or cheap, because technology definitely pays for itself. And take note, technology like Digital Menu Boards and LTO Merchandisers make it easy, and even profitable! Please don’t overlook the fact that great content, presentation, and analysis of those Millennial transactions are vitally important for restaurant chains and operators wanting to stay relevant and keep young upstarts like me coming back.

Don’t get caught up … keep up!

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