Developing and sustaining a profitable business requires a loyal and expanding customer base. Millennials – also known as Generation Y and Generation Now – are a large and diverse market with significant spending power. They’ve developed an enormous influence on the success of large businesses, so much that, much of their promotional marketing strategies are targeting them. Industries such as fashion and electronics are expected to be influenced by the ever-so-often changing trends and fads of Millennials. But one industry may come as a surprise. The restaurant industry has seen substantial influences from young adults as eating habits have changed with the generation.

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Millennials spend 44 percent of their food dollars on eating out, according to the Food Institute’s analysis of the United States Department of Agriculture’s food expenditure data from 2014 (USDA, 2014). That represents a 10.7 percent increase from prior data points in 2010. “As millennials grow older they have more expendable income for eating away from home, contributing to that increase in year over year expenditures,” said Food Institute President and CEO Brian Todd (Talty, 2016). This increase is sure to grab the attention of marketing departments of every restaurant across the country. Many have taken notice, especially the breakfast eateries. Competing chains such as Denny’s and IHOP have made extraordinary efforts to reach their new target audiences. What seems to be the best way of doing so is via social media.

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While both IHOP and Denny’s seem to be aiming at the millennial audience on social media, they are approaching the process in different manners. “America’s Diner” is perfectly content to say whatever it likes on social media, even when it doesn’t really pertain to its products (Patterson, 2015). The company’s social media posts are silly, fun and never sound as if there was any corporate planning involved—which is likely what resonates with the younger audiences, making Denny’s a fan favorite for the younger generation. Their ability to communicate directly with consumers drives their growth.

 For example, below shows Denny’s responding to a tweet which complimented the company on their twitter account’s activities:
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Denny’s has even won awards for their social media strategy and has been recognized by restaurant, technology and marketing industry experts with “America’s Diner” recently being named the recipient of two different awards in the second annual Restaurant Business magazine/FSTEC Awards program (Moody, 2016). For its overall content and community management strategy, Denny’s was named “Social Media Marketer of the Year, Large Chains” by the awards committee, which touted Denny’s ability to show an “on-point comprehension of each social media community and an offbeat voice” (Moody, 2016).
IHOP has fallen behind its competitor when it comes to social media. This is, in part, because of their inability to relate to younger audiences in an appropriate manner. Yes, using trendy language or hip captions can help. But IHOP went a little too far recently with their posts:
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These posts refer to a popular hip hop song and have sexual undertones. IHOP eventually apologized for the tweets. It wrote: “Earlier we tweeted something dumb and immature that does not reflect what IHOP stands for. We’re sorry” (Constante, 2015). IHOP is trying to have the same impact like Denny’s but they’re going about it in a different manner and its causing them problems with creating controversy.
Millennials are spending more on food outside of the home. They are also very active on social media. Restaurants such as Denny’s are using social media to promote their products, directly communicate with their target audience, and relate to the younger generation. IHOP, is trying to do the same but have failed at relating to the generation in an appropriate manner that does not offend or object their consumers.
Sources:
Constante, Johnathan. 2015. IHOP Apologizes After Controversial Tweet Sparks Outrage. Retrieved on April 16, 2017 from http://www.opposingviews.com/i/social/ihop-apologizes-after-controversial-tweet-creates-backlash-social-media
Moody, Scott. 2016. Denny’s earns top honors in restaurant business magazine & FSTE social media awards. Retrieved on April 12, 2017 from https://www.dennys.com/media/news/dennys-earns-top-honors-in-restaurant-business magazine-fstec-social-media-awards/

Patterson, Michael. 2016. 10 Brands Doing an Amazing Job on Social Media. Retrieved on April 12, 2017 from http://www.adweek.com/digital/michael-patterson-10-brands-amazing-social-media/

 

Talty, Alexandra. 2016. New Study Finds Millennials Spend 44 Percent of Food Dollars on Eating Out. Retrieved on April 17, 2016 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexandratalty/2016/10/17/millennials-spend-44-percent-of-food-dollars-on-eating-out-says-food-institute/#781aba3d3ff6

 

USDA. 2014. Food Expenditures. Retrieved on April 17, 2017                                                                               from https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-expenditures.aspx

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