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The Millennial generation's influence on foodservice dollars is starting to make a dent. Millennials made more than 13 billion of the 59 billion visits made to foodservice establishments in 2010 and spent $73 billion dollars, according to market research firm The NPD Group.
The generation's sales influence and size – there are currently 52 million Millennials ages 18 to 29 – will increase throughout the next 10 years, particularly driven by immigration. As these consumers hit college campuses this fall – many experiencing financial freedom for the first time ever – marketers and operators are working to build their loyalty and cater to their preferences.
Various reports have identified where college-aged Millennials are expected to spend their food dollars. Some of the biggest trends influenced by this group include:
Also, according to the Collegiate Gen Y Eating: Culinary Trend Mapping Report, from publisher Packaged Facts and San Francisco-based CCD Innovation, college students will develop new eating habits and expectations that will stick with them long after graduation, which will impact the food industry for the long term.
"The college environment, with its campus food courts, self-serve bars and convenience stores, along with plenty of nearby cheap global eats, offers students an exceptional opportunity to experience new foods, flavor profiles and eating styles," said Kimberly Egan, CEO of CCD Innovation. "Just as minds expand in the classroom, palates expand in college and are forever altered. The food industry will need to respond to these adventurous consumers as they leave campus and start earning their own paychecks."
The Collegiate Gen Y Eating report indicates that the college Millennial demographic has a stronger preference for nutrition, flavor, comfort/indulgence and speed/convenience compared to previous generations. These four categories will be the biggest drivers in their dining choices.
The demographic also has a strong preference for seven emerging culinary trends, including:
Late night dayparting
Finally, to really appeal to the Millennial college crowd, operators should focus on their late-night business. New research from food ordering service GrubHub shows that when it comes to daily order volume, nocturnal orders placed on college campuses outpace national averages by up to 70 percent.
"Students everywhere are pulling 'all-nighters' and many restaurants near campus stay open all night to accommodate these schedules," said Susanne Dawursk, GrubHub brand marketing director.
Perhaps surprisingly, smaller private college students outpace larger state schools in late-night ordering.
Colleges with the highest rates of late-night food orders include:
Colleges with the lowest rates of nocturnal dining include:
Read more about trends and statistics.