Baby boomers are a generation of food enthusiasts. According to Technomic Inc., 45 percent of all baby boomers love everything about food—from trying new restaurants and visiting restaurant and food-based websites to watching cooking shows. With boomers comprising 29 percent of the Canadian population, that’s a lot of food enthusiasts eating at your restaurant. So how do you market your restaurant to attract the baby boomer generation?
According to Statistics Canada, boomers hold more than $200 billion in spending power. They also enjoy more free time to eat out. Both of these factors make this large generation a target demographic for most restaurant operations. One important note when developing a strategy here—although boomers have money to spend and time to spend it, they’re not night owls. Savvy foodservice operators should use early evening specials to target them.
From seafood and fish dishes to Chinese cuisine and sandwiches, everything from full-service restaurants to quick-serve establishments can set themselves up for success by marketing to baby boomers. One thing to watch for, however, is that many boomers are at a stage in their lives where health concerns affect their restaurant menu choices.
According to Restaurant Hospitality magazine, boomers purchase an average of 193 restaurant meals a year, making this generation impossible to ignore.
Over the years, smell and taste receptors can often diminish, meaning that for many baby boomers, foods don’t hold the same “oomph” that they used to. By offering bold flavours, such as spice rubs, signature sauces, and more pronounced flavours, boomers can experience a much more memorable dish when dining out.
Though boomers are craving bolder, more pronounced flavours, they’re not necessarily adventurous eaters. Serving twists on the original dishes they love, from bacon burger meatloaf, to adult mac and cheese, allows boomers to eat the dishes they grew up with while giving them the bold flavour infusions they crave.
Focusing boomers’ cravings for robust flavours and spins on classic fare, reinventing breakfast can open the door to a variety of flavour trends that attract them. Incorporate a broad range of fruits and vegetables, health-centric proteins (turkey, chicken, egg whites), each in a wide range of presentations.
Boomers are attracted to the convenience of dining out, and the dining experience should suit their desire to snack. Offering appetizers and sharing plates on the menu is an easy way to satisfy their craving for fast, convenient dishes.
As this generation continues to age, health-related callouts on menus are becoming more and more appealing to them. Try offering restaurant menu items that are low-fat or fat-free, low-sodium, low-carb, or cholesterol-free.
Not to be confused with low prices, value resonates with boomers. According to Technomic, 74 percent of boomers will choose a restaurant based on perceived value. That does not mean keep the meals cheap. It means boomers value a fair price for a good meal.
Your waitstaff must be friendly and sociable. It’s important for boomers to feel “at home” when they come to your restaurant. Train your front-of-house staff to learn who their customers are. Run contests to help get servers engaged. Not only will this help the servers earn larger tips, it will entice customers to want to visit your restaurant again and again.
Boomers love deals and loyalty programs. In fact, 32 percent of boomers (higher for women) choose a restaurant based on their coupons and deals. Start a frequent dining club card. Get guests to fill out information cards so you can reward them with a free dessert or other incentive on their birthday, anniversary, etc. Or, after ten meals, give them their eleventh meal for free.
Soft drinks and fountain beverages top the list as boomers’ most preferred beverages at restaurants. Boomers also prefer iced tea and regular hot coffee more than their younger generations. Hot tea, smoothies, and specialty coffees are especially appealing to boomer women. Smoothies and hot tea enjoy a better-for-you positioning, while women may consider specialty coffees to be a treat.