Reading my colleague Sara Rush’s blog, “6 Musings on a Millennial’s Mind,” triggered some musings in this old baby boomer’s head.
I’m not oblivious to the fact that millennials are the darlings of the restaurant world—the customers every operator wants to snag and nurture into regulars along with all their buzzy friends. But until we start moving in droves into senior living communities, boomers still are leaving big chunks of cash in restaurants. According to data from the NPD Group, 50+ year-olds dine out more often than millennials do. While shrinking in proportion, the baby boomer generation is still too large to ignore, says NPD. So what can restaurateurs do to make us happier and more frequent customers?
1. Muffle the noise.
I like a lively restaurant with a casual vibe and a busy bar scene, but once I sit down, I want to be able to carry on a conversation with my tablemates without screaming. Restaurants take note—a lot of us went to a lot of rock concerts in our younger days and really loud environments actually pain our ears. I don’t want you to ruin the experience for noise-craving millennials, but how about creating a quiet room or space where the older generation can enjoy the same on-trend menu in a gentler atmosphere? We’ll linger longer and spend more.
2. Ditch the high-tops.
It’s truly uncomfortable to eat an entire dinner while sitting at a high-top table with your legs dangling below. Ditto for backless wooden benches or stools in lieu of chairs. Both are fine for a cocktail or two, but not a meal. Why not a mix of seating to accommodate all age groups?
3. No more table negotiations.
Speaking of seating, it really irks me that a host or manager shows a group of diners with a reservation—especially a group of female boomers—to a four-top in the middle of the restaurant or near the kitchen door when there are empty tables in much better locations. This leads to the table negotiating game: we ask for another table, the host consults the seating chart and our request is usually granted. But why not ask for our preference before automatically shuttling us to an undesirable table?
4. Overpouring the wine.
This may be a universal gripe that’s not exclusive to my generation but it happens a lot when I’m dining out with my peers. We order a bottle of wine before our food arrives that’s meant to be enjoyed with dinner. Perhaps we’re still nursing a cocktail from the bar. But over-eager servers pour the wine, then top off everyone’s glass after a few sips, emptying the bottle and compelling us to order another. I know this is a check-boosting tactic, but why not ask first?
5. Steak is boring.
Many boomers like to try the same chef-driven dishes and global flavors as those adventure-seeking millennials. Why do so many high-end steakhouses offer such a limited and unvarying selection of uninspired meats and sides? Add more small plates, shareable appetizers and inspired seasonal sides at prices that won’t drain our retirement funds.