Are restaurant marketers ignoring Gen X?
I remember being a senior in high school and seeing the movie "Singles" for the first time. I bought my first Pearl Jam album the day before I moved into my college dorm room. And I vividly recall finishing Douglas Coupland's "Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture."
I felt empowered, being part of this generation that inspired so much pop culture. Plus, "Gen X" just sounded cool.
But now my peers and I are outnumbered nearly 3-to-1 by the Millennials — those born between 1977 and 2000. Forbes estimated there are about 77 million people in this younger demographic.
And, of course Gen Xers also outnumbered by our preceding generation; after all, that's why they're called "Boomers."
Maybe this gap explains why Gen X feels like a new "Lost Generation." As a business journalist, I get piles of reports, presentations and advice pieces geared toward restaurant marketers looking to woo Millennial consumers.
And Baby Boomer consumers ...
The inundation of information has taught me that Millennials like technology and social media and one-to-one interaction with brands. They like socializing with their friends. They like having healthy menu choices and the ability to customize their meals. They have a diverse palate and they often try to hunt out a good deal.
Restaurant marketers have been salivating over this crowd for the past couple of years, especially as they're expected to increase their foodservice spend.
Meanwhile, the Boomers — those born between 1946ish and 1964ish — have been adding restaurant occasions, which has many brands scrambling to figure out a marketing balance between the two diverse groups.
Boomers might not as active on social media channels; they don't care much about one-to-one marketing or gaming. But they are becoming more comfortable with technology, particularly mobile. They don't seek out healthy menu choices as often as the Millennials, nor are they as picky about customization. They do, however, like dine-out occasions with their friends and families, and they will hunt out a good deal.
But what about the rest of us? The proverbial "middle child?"
We Gen Xers also have young families and are bringing the entire clan to most dine-out occasions. We travel a lot, for pleasure and for work, which means we eat out a lot by default. Like our younger peers, we are very social media savvy and are tethered to our smartphones. We like to socialize and we like to have healthier choices for both ourselves and our families.
We like convenience and pick-up and delivery, and we like the increased opportunity to customize our meals. We will also experiment and try out new flavors. We want a choice of wine or craft beer and we want a robust non-alcoholic beverage menu. We, too, like to hunt out a good deal.
That's just scratching the surface ...
This week, NBC News published a piece this week about restaurants shifting their focus back to the Boomers after chasing the Millennial crowd for so long. But as Forbes reports, the Baby Boomers will take with them close to $400 billion in annual spending when they retire, which will leave a huge void; particularly with non-necessities such as dining out.
Couple that with the Millennial unemployment rate — which is about 13.1 percent vs. the national average of 7.1 percent — and there seems to be a big opportunity on who to actually go after.
Gen X has higher disposable incomes and lower unemployment rates than the much-sought-after Millennials. And we aren't retiring and taking our disposable incomes with us anytime soon, like the Boomers.
Maybe it's time to show us a little love.
Alicia Kelso / Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.