Comment: Impact of millennials on F&B

Sarah-Jane Grant discusses how millennials affect the foodie culture

Love them or hate them, you cannot deny the influence of the millennial generation — Gen Y —, one of the most disruptive in terms of changing norms and attitudes. Organisations, whether retailers, banks or restaurants are working hard to understand the attitudes, desires and needs of this generation to adapt their approach to secure a piece of the billions of millennials due to spend each year. The buzzwords for this generation are ‘real’, ‘authentic’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘experience’, and the winners will be those who embrace these new attitudes and behaviours to engage the 24–34-year-olds. Social media, a good customer experience, and a focus on the brand’s support for society are all important in cultivating that loyalty.

Research shows that food trust is a vital ingredient for a successful restaurant-millennial relationship. Over half make an effort to buy products from companies that support their cause (according to Forbes), striving to consume real, less processed ingredients, natural and nutrient-rich products produced in a sustainable manner. Further international research suggests that 68% of millennial consumers prefer local sourcing of ingredients. Those places that achieve ‘it’ status will adhere to their strong set of beliefs and values.


Memorable shared food experiences drive today’s dining decisions for all ages and the younger consumers will continue to perpetuate this trend. Diners have to be able to tell the story of the dishes and surroundings to friends, acting as a powerful recommendation. Word of mouth marketing now relies heavily on this story — the provenance of the food, the interaction with the F&B team, the rationale for the design of the restaurant. This is a generation that has high expectations; 67% said they love ordering healthy options offered at a restaurant, yet 63% also love ‘over-the-top’ menu items. In a world of instant sharing, whether a word, image or hashtag, standout, memorable highlights are essential.

Many of the big hotel brands are designing hotels in line with the millennial mindset such as Jo&Joe and Marriott’s Moxy, and restaurant concepts targeted at this generation must do the same. One game-changer has been the evolution of technology and how this can be used as a differentiator. The younger generations who are tech-savvy, having grown up with gadgets ingrained in their day-to-day life, are prepared to order via tablets or even electronic kiosks. Research even shows that 68% of millennials will choose one restaurant over another simply because its menu is online to be able to peruse in advance, adding to the sense of food trust and sense of experience. There is a growing trend for mixed use spaces and LXA is currently working on projects that combine food and experience. One of them is BXR, a boutique new gym and spa in London. It’s the first of its kind that has a boxing theme including steam, sauna, and treatment rooms and juice bar by Joe and The Juice.

Commentary on the millennial impact on the F&B industry is not complete without reference to social media. It is essential that in telling the restaurant’s story, each detail has been meticulously planned from the concept stage. Sustainability, the provenance and sensitivity of the design materials are also important elements of consideration. How can you make it easy for the consumers to share their personal moments in the story? What are the instagrammable highlights? Creating impressive and visually appealing dishes are complemented by the surroundings, the design, the flow through the restaurant and the team. It’s a common challenge in the design process to find the ‘wow’ or Instagram moment.

The millennials are greatly influenced by the foodie culture around them. The concept creators, designers and operations must work closely together to put themselves in the millennial’s shoes and define those important indicators that attract and engage this young audience — quality, healthy food; sustainable provenance of ingredients, and a 360˚ memorable experience.

Sarah-Jane Grant is one of the region’s most respected design experts, with a particular passion for F&B. She has successfully guided the Dubai arm of LXA as director over the past five years.  Email her at or follow her on Twitter: @LuxeSJ

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