Strategic Ways to Market Your Restaurant to Millennials & Gen Zers

Published May 21, 2021

How to make your restaurant appealing to millennials and Gen Zers Hint: It’s all about the experience.


Getting your customers to visit your restaurant always requires a bit of strategy. And if you’ve owned one for a while, you likely already know what appeals to baby boomers and Gen X. But younger generations have vastly different expectations when it comes to the dining experience.

Here are a few tips on building a connection with the millennial and Gen Z markets:

Connecting with millennial diners

Millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1996, eat out at restaurants more than other generations, but they’re often looking for something different from the norm. They aren’t afraid to bust open their wallets for an exciting or authentic restaurant experience like adventuresome eating or cocktails from “the good old days.”

Millennials are the largest generation in U.S. history, so it’s crucial to court these diners. Here are a few tips on how to win their hearts and wallets.

Include global-inspired and ethnic flavors.
Millennials are daring when it comes to food and open to new and diverse flavors. Most like experimenting with ethnic flavors, so designing a variety of culturally inspired dishes can help you attract their business.

Keep sustainability and social responsibility in mind.
Organic, sustainable, locally and ethically sourced foods are high on the list of priorities for millennial diners. They want to know where their food came from and how it was made. Include these details on your menu and train waitstaff to highlight these items when making suggestions to millennial guests.

Get ‘crafty’ with your beverage menu.
Millennials are also known for their love of craft beverages from artisanal beers to handmade cocktails—especially if it’s a new twist on an old classic. This crowd prefers genuineness over convenience (at least when it comes to getting a great, unique experience), so use fresh ingredients in cocktails instead of drink mixes and consider adding a couple local craft brews to your beer selection.

Focus on the experience.
In general, millennials value authentic over fancy. They prefer an inviting, comfortable ambiance rather than a more formal dining experience. Capture this in your restaurant by avoiding kitschy décor and copycat branding and opting for a simpler and more authentic feel.

Maintain your presence.
Millennials do their research online before setting foot into a restaurant, which is why a strong digital presence is important. Be sure to keep an eye on what’s being said about your restaurant on social media and online review sites, and be consistent in updating Instagram, Facebook and other avenues you use for digital marketing.

Connecting with Gen Z diners

“Gen Z” refers to those born after 1995, with the earliest members being current college graduates who now have “big people” jobs while other members are still currently in school.

Students don’t need much convincing to eat out. The key is getting them to choose your restaurant and keep them coming back. For a group that spends the majority of their disposable income on food, now is the time to start exposing your restaurants to this rising generation.

Here are a few tips to targeting and pleasing Gen Zers who love to dine out:

Participate in community-based incentives.
Born into the age of nonstop brand messaging, Gen Z is notoriously resistant to online advertising—go with short native video ads to reach this generation. While personalized offers are more effective, they also can be complicated to execute. An easier way to connect with this market is by giving exclusive offers to a community where Gen Z is an engaged member, such as the local chapter of a popular student organization.

Expand your ‘broke student’ mentality.
Rethink your preconceptions of a high-school or college student’s budget—but do cater to it. To reach this audience, try offering a standard discount with a valid student ID or BOGO deals to entice the dating crowd. A recent survey found that 93 percent of students are more likely to try a new restaurant that offers discounts for students.

Give on-demand attention.
Gen Z is growing up in an increasingly on-demand world. They’re more open to impulse-driven purchases rather than traditional seasonal-only promotions. Take advantage of their openness and spontaneity by using tactics such as mobile push alerts so you can reach them when they’re hungry, whenever or wherever that may be.

Communicate visually.
Most members of Gen Z are heavy social media users and communicate with pictures and videos as much as words. Luckily, the food world is a vibrant, colorful and photogenic place. This gives the restaurant industry a unique opportunity to connect with Gen Z using visual appeal.

Dedicate resources to getting beautiful photos of your dishes and video snippets of your restaurant to target this group, and brush up on ways to make your restaurant more social media friendly.

Understanding younger generations will give you a leg up


Maybe you are a millennial who owns or operates a restaurant or a Gen Zer (hey, a large portion of them say they want to be entrepreneurs and perhaps skip college) so you already know precisely what appeals to younger generations. Either way, knowing what they enjoy about dining in and delivery or pickup services from your restaurant will give you an advantage over the competition to gain their loyalty.

When your restaurant is backed by NCR, it's simple to stay out front.

Whether that's literally up front with your customers, or out front of your competition.

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