Are Millennials Resetting the Flavours of the F&B Industry?


There are plenty of stereotypes surrounding millennials. Their supposed fascination with avocados, reluctance to leave the family home, and obsession with social media have become tropes of Generation Y, but it would be foolish to disregard their emerging influence as a spending powerhouse.

In the GCC, the combined millennial and Generation Z population – people born between 1980 and the mid-2000s – is just over half of the population (63%) according to a recent HSBC Private Banking report. Millennials are now at the age where they’ve finished university, entered the workforce, and made their way up the career ladder. They’re affluent, socially-conscious, and tech savvy.

As such, the F&B industry must respond to the prevailing tastes of the era, and there are some specific attributes of millennial life to look out for. In this article, we’ll explore five of the most prominent.

Spending Power

A key characteristic of the millennial generation, particularly in the UAE, is spending power. The same HSBC report shows that they are the backbone of a booming middle class with an average workday 20% higher than other millennials around the world. This means they have significant amounts of disposable income and they’re not afraid to spend it.

But millennials aren’t traditional consumers. They’re not looking for status symbols; research shows they want experiences. For the F&B industry, it’s not enough to be opulent – offerings must tap into the millennial need for an authentic connection, boosting the event overall.

Where Technology Meets Dining

If you’re a millennial, or you’ve dined with them, you’re probably familiar with the modern protocol when it comes to eating out. The food arrives, and before anyone takes a bite, out come the phones to capture the meal for posterity.

Depending on the dedication of the photographer, several minutes might be lost to finding the right angle, the perfect lighting, or a slight rearrangement of the plate for optimal Insta impact.

Millennials love to share what they’re up to on social media. Instagram has become the platform for flexing your meals. This makes presentation very important for establishments looking to attract the lucrative young demographic.

That’s not the only way that technology intersects with dining. Millennials use their smart devices to find out where they’re going to eat, drink, and socialise. While word of mouth remains important, Generation Y rely on the impartial reviews of other people, using platforms such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook, and good old trusty Google to choose a destination that’s just right.

In fact, a study revealed that two-thirds of people in the GCC select restaurants through social media. For F&B businesses, this encourages a focus on not only getting the product and service right but maintaining a positive online presence.

Quality & Authenticity

Millennials are a discerning bunch. The Organic Trade Association suggest millennials are eating 52% more vegetables and organic meals, showing the lean towards healthier lifestyles. Which means, when spending money on food and drink, they prioritise quality over quantity, and they’re willing to pay for the finer things in life.

Due to travel and living more in a cosmopolitan society, global hospitality organisation Benchmark, have found that millennials also seek out dining experiences that are ethnically-diverse, interesting, and authentic.

A challenge for the F&B industry is to update and refresh menus on a regular basis, to bring a taste of distant lands to their local audience, and to do so with impeccable precision. Increased online accessibility and travel for millennials should reflect in the offerings in the F&B industry.

Organic, Sustainable Dining

With an acute awareness of where their food and drink comes from, millennials actively seek out local, organic ingredients and look favourably on businesses that provide them.

Ethical and environmental consciousness also comes into play. According to Ignite’s 2016 Generational Consumer Trend Report 28% of millennials think it’s important for restaurants to be socially responsible, while 32% are more likely to visit establishments that demonstrate this kind of commitment – that’s more than any other generation.

This also plays a part in explaining the exponential rise in adoption of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. Although they’ve historically been hard to find, restaurants that cater to plant-based diets are on the rise in the UAE.

In With the New

In all aspects of life, millennials place an emphasis on discovery. They’re great travellers, and the spirit of adventure spills over to their choices when it comes to dining and socialising, making them keen to experiment through food and drink. In fact, according to new research 81% of millennials enjoy making new cultural discoveries through cuisine.

Three Challenges for the F&B Industry in Dubai

In response to the tastes and preferences of the region’s millennials, there are three take-home messages for the UAE or GCC F&B industry:

  • Establishments must strive to offer an unforgettable experience and flavours, with the aim to broaden their own horizons as well as their patrons’.
  • Diverse cuisines and innovative takes on familiar favourites are key parts of a winning formula.
  • Social platforms are becoming the main stage for the F&B to appeal to millennials and incorporating technology in the experience will help remain competitive and stand out.

As you can see, millennials are nothing to fear! Rather, they represent an exciting opportunity for evolution with the F&B sector, if you can keep up.

*By Priyanka Mittal, Director KRBL Ltd


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