Consumer Trends

4 foodservice trends driven by millennials

Millennials make up a sizable portion of the population—22% of it, according to Technomic’s 2016 Generational Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite. So it makes sense that food trends are often shaped by this group of diners.

From where they eat to the social media platforms they prefer to their cooking and eating habits in general, millennials are shaping foodservice today. To appeal to what millennials want, operators need to know what trends they’re driving. Here’s a peek.

Takeout is key

According to Technomic’s Generational report, when millennials order from restaurants, they’re dining in just 42% of the time. Other restaurant visits are made up of takeout (40%) and delivery (19%). Of all generations, they lead takeout orders, and 34% of millennials say they are visiting foodservice locations more now than they were two years ago.

Millennials say that the reasons for visiting restaurants more include that they have less time to cook at home (45%) and that it’s more convenient to purchase food for takeout or delivery (38%). This may be related to the fact that when they were growing up, about a quarter (24%) of millennials’ families ordered food for takeout or delivery—compared to just 7% of boomers’ families. In other words, foodservice has been a presence for most of millennials’ lives.

This trend is likely to continue, with only 39% of millennials saying they believe they’ll have more time to cook in the future. Offering a strong takeout program with options such as online ordering and mobile ordering can help bolster these types of orders.

Social causes and loyalty

If operators want to compete for millennial attention, coupons, discounts and loyalty or rewards programs are a good bet. Thirty-five percent of millennials say that coupons and discounts influence where they purchase food, while 37% say that loyalty and rewards programs encourage them to visit specific restaurants over others.

Thirty-two percent of millennials, more than any other generation, say they are more likely to visit restaurants that try to be sustainable, and 28% say it’s important that the restaurants they visit be socially responsible. Backing causes—especially those relevant to younger generations—can be a good way to garner loyalty and patronage.

Innovative flavors and global mashups

Millennials are more interested than other generations in visiting restaurants that offer dishes with new or innovative flavors and ingredients—in Technomic’s Generational report, 40% say they are, compared to 38% of Gen Xers, 30% of Gen Zers, and 29% of boomers.

Additionally, 39% of millennials say they would like restaurants to offer more ethnic foods and beverages. For instance, Southeast Asian spices and ingredients such as Sriracha, gochujang and harissa, a Tunisian spice, are becoming more popular on menus, while Latin and Caribbean chili-lime and jerk seasonings are also making waves.

Other food trends that millennials are driving include:

  • Sweet and savory mashups, such as bacon donuts or jalapeno breakfast bars.
  • Indian flavors, such as naan, chutney and curry dishes.
  • Sour and fermented flavors, such as kombucha, pickled vegetables and kimchi.
  • Specific peppers, such as ancho, habanero, chipotle, jalapeno and serrano.

Younger consumers have grown up with access to more foods than previous generations did, which could be fueling their desire to branch out from the foods they’re familiar with.


Beyond taste and freshness, customization is key for millennials, as 44% say that the ability to customize their meal is an important attribute when choosing where to dine. Customization doesn’t just refer to adding or omitting ingredients, either, but being able to choose a smaller or larger portion size based on how hungry (or not) they are.

To cater to millennial trends, operators should incorporate things such as convenient ordering tools, social causes and popular flavors and ingredients. Convenient flavor add-ons such as condiments, sauces and spices are easy to add to menus and self-serve stations and ensure that diners can spice up their meals as they please.

This post is sponsored by Mrs. Dash Foodservice


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