Winning over millennials has been a topic of conversation at restaurant industry events for years. But now, there’s a new twist. Millennials are aging into their late twenties and early thirties and having families. What was trendy with them a few years ago might now be a burden with babies in the picture. So instead of striving for that noisy, bustling restaurant to win them over, here’s a new set of ideas to gain the attention of millennials—and their families.
1. Mocktails on the cocktail list
A lot of pregnant millennials, at least in the Chicagoland area, have learned to ask what kind of mocktails a restaurant can make when they dine out. These crafty booze-less cocktails aren’t on the menu, but most servers can readily list them off. So why not include them on the menu—alongside the boozy concoctions that others are ordering? Dining out is one of the main social excursions for many millennials, whether it’s meeting girlfriends for drinks or gathering with a group for dinner. Pregnant millennials can feel left out when everyone has a drink in their hand. While many stick to water or soda because they don't see anything else on the menu, giving them the written option to feel included is a good way to squeeze out a few extra dollars and make them feel happier about their dining-out experience.
2. Off-hours shouldn’t mean slower service
Brand new moms and dads don’t get the opportunity to go out to eat often with a new baby in tow. And when they do, many target off-peak hours. Crowds aren’t as common, thus there are fewer people to irritate in the event of a baby meltdown. But most new parents know they are on a certain time limit between feedings, napping and crying. They want to get in and out fast. If they are heading to a fast casual that usually moves diners through the line in five minutes, that’s what they are expecting. Slowing down service just because there’s not a big line to whip through can be a big irritant. They want speed for a reason.
3. Wide load—keep the aisles big
Packing in plenty of tables, sticking them very close together, once made a restaurant feel busy and bustling. It was cool to be at a crowded hotspot and be close enough to chat with your neighbors about the dishes they were trying. Now, it’s a pain. Heck, it’s hard enough to squeeze through some of the gaps between close-together tables after a big meal. Having the added girth of carrying a baby means fitting through can be next to impossible. Plus, having a toddler within grabbing reach of another table is dangerous. Those little arms move fast—and can disrupt a less-than-forgiving table’s meal. And let’s not even get into how impossible narrow aisles are to navigate with a stroller, even when folded up. Since when is the best option leaving the multi-hundred dollar stroller with the hostess?
4. Communal tables + babies = no go
High-top communal tables still are a big design trend. For a time, there wasn’t a new, trendy restaurant that didn’t have a long, reclaimed wood tall boy for guests to sit at. Then babies came into the picture. You can’t pull the standard high chair up to those tables, nor can strollers easily be wheeled up and monitored. Even regular dining-height tables can be a challenge with high chairs. Chances are, strangers don’t want to be sitting right up against a crying child.
5. Nursing moms—don’t even ask
Don’t judge, give looks or ask negative questions. Because you will wind up being attacked via social media. And it might make the local news. Or you might have to deal with a sit-in of nursing moms. Whether or not you and your staff personally agree with breastfeeding in public, it’s not worth the potential ramifications to call it out. Maybe even have a statement or policy prepared in case other guests complain.