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How Millennials Shun Traditional Mealtimes

A recent survey, conducted by Elior, investigating the eating preferences of Generation Y suggests millennials are shunning traditional mealtimes, but why?

Quite simply – life is busier. We live in a technology driven world that operates 24/7, people are now filling their time with more activities and as a result they often leave themselves with little time to plan/prepare what they are going to eat during the day and for a lunch break. This makes it extremely hard for them to maintain the healthy lifestyle they say want to lead.

Breakfast no longer exists for some

Breakfast seems to be one casualty of the millennial lifestyle. Elior’s survey shows Generation Y skip breakfast twice a week on average and opt for mid-morning snacks. The survey also shows that when it comes to buying lunch they want value, speed and convenience with quality coming fourth on the list of priorities.

A guest at Elior’s recent launch event for the research questioned the spending and pointed out you often see millennials who are prepared to pay premium prices for coffee. Robin Givens, National Sales Director, at Elior UK said, “The reality is value perceptions have changed, whilst they will spend premium price on coffee they are equally comfortable with £3 meal deal from a local supermarket. The most important opportunity is to try and deliver to their aspirations – so whilst value and speed is very important so too is delivering their brand aspiration. It’s this that they will pay for.”

One of the panelists, at the event said it’s more to do with value for money than it is whether it’s cheap. Abbie Godward, Student at Bournemouth University says, “I’d be happy to pay premium if it’s better quality.”

Healthy living is important

One-third (34%) of millennials would like to eat more healthily. Interestingly this 34% forms part of 92% who say they either eat healthily or intend to but their purchasing behaviour suggests otherwise – millennials’ actual choices for breakfast and lunch are not the healthiest.

Why is this? The research shows millennials point to limited options – and also price – as barriers to healthier eating.

This highlights the importance of making healthy food both tasty and easily accessible, clearly highlighting/communicating the health and nutritional benefits of offerings. It’s this that will improve the sales.

Convenience is king

It seems everything we’ve read recently about millennials abandoning fast food chains is only half true. Yes eating healthy food is clearly very important to them but the other half of the story shows they’re spending just as much time grabbing ‘food to go’ from the supermarket. Speed and convenience is key.

Fast casual dining has been on the rise for many years. Millennial lunch decisions are being dictated by fast service (40%) and inexpensive prices (38%), just behind quality and taste (42%), making sandwiches, chips and burgers the order of the day. This is corroborated by the millennials’ most followed social media brands being fast food retailers with Domino’s, McDonald’s and Nando’s ahead of the rest.

Millennials are purchasing breakfast on the way to work, college or university at least once a week. Convenience wins, with location encouraging millennials to buy a quick breakfast at their workplace or campus facility.

Millennials want a great experience

Millennials expect every meal to be a great experience and the survey shows there is a real need, and a major business opportunity, 
for caterers and food providers to give millennials the experience they demand from their meals.

The research shows millennials favour brands that are active on social media, and see technology as part of the dining experience. We will discuss this more in our July issue of Lexington News.

It’s important to think through every part of the eating out experience, and make it as compelling as possible. This is where innovation comes in – it’s important to give food and customer service teams the flexibility to tailor their offering, making food, service and communication fit for purpose and an exciting experience from start to finish.

Millennials move fast. So, to satisfy their appetite for the next big thing, the industry will need to move fast too. This said it’s important to think about everyone – the whole customer base – not just millennials. This requires flexibility – we need to be agile, not only in terms of the food offered, but where it is sourced, how it is priced, sold and marketed.

What does success look like?

It comes back to understanding our customers, innovation and good communication.

As caterers we need to be leading the way terms of the latest tastes and trends in food and customer service. We are competing with the high street and know we need to be at the fore, showing our customers what the next big thing is going to be, which is why we ensure our team get the opportunity to take time out to see what others are doing and experiment.

We also need to be communicating with our customers effectively, listening to what they want and letting them know what we are doing – it’s this that will build brand awareness and loyalty. It’s this that will help us succeed and ensure they keep coming back for more.

For more information about Elior’s report, The Millennial Eater, visit