Domino’s, Papa John’s and other pizza players big and small might’ve seen a lot of action this past Super Bowl Sunday, but they didn’t score a touchdown with hoards of millennials. After a small, self-conducted survey of millennials living in various urban locations—Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Denver—I’ve realized that pizza and traditional Buffalo wings aren’t the sure sale they used to be.
We’ve heard time and again that millennials are thrill-seekers when it comes to food. Big data says the demographic is looking for big, bold, ethnic flavors. Sure, maybe when we’re trying a hot new restaurant, but on Super Bowl Sunday? On what some consider the most American day of the year, millennials veer from tradition? The simple answer: yes.
Those that I canvassed about Super Bowl menus all still carried out from various restaurants. Yet not one mentioned ordering pizza and/or Buffalo wings. Instead, I heard about a lot of big salads with funky veggies and party-style sandwiches made with artisanal meats, cheeses and spreads such as tapanades. Another commonly catered-in option was tacos (some set up build-your-own bars while others opted for a few prebuilt basics: carnitas, chicken and fish).
That’s not to say wings didn’t come up. But there was no mention of Buffalo sauce, celery or blue cheese. A common go to for some of my Chicago cohorts was Crisp, an Asian concept in Boystown known for its larger-than-normal chicken wings with Korean barbecue or Seoul Sassy sauce, both of which pack a punch of flavor and spice.
One caveat: In most cases, the Super Bowl menus were developed by females in their late 20s, early 30s. But it seems that the men at the different parties didn’t complain about the nontraditional menus.
So a lesson to all those looking to capitalize on these “holidays” by emphasizing what’s always sold in the past: Change it up! While it may be more valid in large, urban areas, there’s opportunity out there for chains to gain a share of the millennial population by looking outside of the U.S. for menu inspiration. There always will be consumers looking for the standard fare, but the growing demands from what’s turned out to be one of the largest generations—with money to spend—is for something just a little different.