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Categorizing millennials? Go ahead and try. Oh, you already have?

It’s official: I’ve been categorized into an “eater type.” Operators at the FARE conference in Nashville this week heard Donna Hood Crecca of Chicago researcher Technomic break down the entire consumer population into seven types of eater groups. And shockingly, two-thirds of all restaurant visits can be pegged to one of three types of consumers, all of whom Hood Crecca says sway young consumers.

The busy balancer: Mostly mid- to upper-income millennial females who are busy but embrace stress. One of the most frequent restaurant users, they seek healthy menus and are driving away-from-home breakfast purchases.

The functional eater: Mostly lower-income millennial males who see food as fuel. Nutrition isn’t as much of a concern as consistency and an appealing value.

And then there’s me, the foodservice hobbyist: Females aged 18 to 24 or 35 to 44 who view dining out as a social occasion, making ambiance and atmosphere matter as much as food and beverage. (Full disclosure: I’m smack-dab in between the two age brackets, but I’ll let that slide.) This group—which makes up 21 percent of all foodservice occasions, says Hood Crecca—view dining out as a social hobby. As much as I hate the word, it’s the “foodies.”

Interestingly, though, Hood Crecca pointed out that this middle-income group is always looking for deals. They will respond to push promotions or deals, she says, because it gives them permission to indulge in foodservice. Smaller portions and shared meals help them control dining-out costs.

My initial reaction: “Psh, I don’t know what she’s talking about. I don’t skimp or deal hunt when dining out.” And then I remembered the previous edition of Token Millennial, in which I referred to a nine-course tasting menu at Umami Burger designed for four people that my peers and I considered a great price.

Crap! She’s right. In true millennial fashion, I’ve tried to be an individual. I’ve gone out of my way to disprove a lot of the research on millennials to break the mold. Yet she’s pinned me, to a tee, as evidenced by my raving about the shared tasting menu I’ve referred to as a “great deal.”

But here’s the fine point of differentiation that was not made. I’m looking for value. I’m not looking for inexpensive. That tasting menu was about $50 per person. Not cheap for the better-burger market, but a great value based on what we got. So maybe it’s not push notifications and promotions that get millennials in the door, but rather having something on the menu that can be seen as a fantastic value.

I can justify my spending when I see it as a great deal without being told it’s such. Because coupons and discounts make me think you’re cheapening you’re offerings. But a great value for a good product brings me in the door … with friends. 

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