Talking ’bout My Generation

Fare’s Chief Millennial Correspondent weighs in on the eating habits of his peers

By  Elliott Krause, Freelance writer

CHICAGO -- What do Kobe Bryant, Kate Upton and your correspondent have in common? Admittedly, not much: One is an NBA superstar, the other is a supermodel and the last one is a klutz who is prone to cutting his finger while deshelling a pistachio. We all have one thing in common, however. We are all millennials.

As Fare’s Chief Millennial Correspondent (yes, we made that up), I would like to introduce myself. Like everyone else from my generation, I am unique. According to Technomic’s recent report on millennials (what they consider ages 19 to 34), we are “self-expressive, confident, liberal, upbeat and open to change.” We millennials are loyal to our favorite places and brands, with which we foster emotional connections “that stem beyond experience.”

Millennials also eat out more often than any other generation, according to Technomic. Some do it for convenience; others do it for price. More and more young people are living alone, and cooking tacos for one--buying the tortillas, taco meat, seasoning, black beans, cheese, lettuce, onions, salsa, Cholula, etc.--costs about the same as buying a burrito from Chipotle. So we eat out and are a perfect target for a well-aimed advertisement.

But marketing to us is a challenge. We used to sit through our favorite television shows; now we record our favorites and fast-forward through the commercials. We used to see banner ads on websites; now we can download an application that blocks all Internet advertisements. We used to stare at billboards while we drove; now we don’t even notice them because we are too busy texting.

Marketing to millennials is also difficult because we have idiosyncratic perspectives on eating. I think the most important trait for a restaurant is being true to its own image. So be honest and keep in mind what Ricky Nelson taught us.

“You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself,” the singer said in 1972, six years before the first millennial was born. And that is still true today. In trying to cater to millennials’ preferences you can serve organic scrambled eggs, but some millennials won’t eat it because the chickens weren’t raised on a local farm. Sometimes the eggs are organic and chickens local, and sometimes that puts it just out of our price range. And, for some of us, whether or not the chickens had an open pasture to run and play with their chicken friends is not that high of a priority.

Which is the case for me, more or less. I care about issues like sustainability and social investment, but now and then I just want a double-quarter pounder from McDonald’s.

Although I’m not the perfect representative of my generation--my dad is better at texting than I am--I think this feeling is true for most millennials. After typing this sentence I will argue with my friend Thor about where we should go for lunch, a local or a chain restaurant, because supporting local restaurants is important to me, but it’s not a deal-breaker.