Much is written, articulated and theorised about how the hospitality sector can make itself more attractive to Millennials, those born in the early 1980s to mid-1990s, writes Mike Berry.
We read a lot about their expectations and demands when it comes to eating and drinking out and their relationship with alcohol (it’s complicated). It remains an important long-term trend and one that operators across the sector are still working hard to fully understand.
But what about the cohort of young adults that follow them – Gen Z – defined as those born in the mid-1990s onwards? After all, these are future pub regulars, loyal customers and potential employees.
A presentation by author and consultant Chloe Combi at the recent MCA Managed Pub Summit attempted to answer the question of how to appeal to a generation that, ostensibly, doesn’t really go out very often.
For pubs, restaurants and bars clearly this is a fundamental problem. Combi floated the concept of ‘isolated socialising’ with the bedroom being the hub of their social activity – maintaining their online presence, watching YouTube videos, gaming, and some dabbling in ‘Netflix and Chill’.
They also don’t do much drinking (greater numbers are becoming teetotal), clubbing, eating out, and their thoughts on pubs in particular are enough to make your typical licensee reach for the Scotch
Here are a selection of their views from Combi’s research:
- Pubs are for “old people”, unsafe, and full of “old men”
- They are ‘pointlessly expensive’
- Not an ‘Instagram opportunity’
- Will get their parents to take them if the food is good
- “Might go to one if they didn’t let in anyone over 40”
At the risk of generalising, how can operators, whether they agree with them or not, tackle these preconceptions? Here are some pointers.
Strong social media presence – and not just Facebook and Twitter. A pub has to be active across Instagram (the fastest growing social network) and consider more niche platforms such as Snapchat. Venues must have a strong ‘Instagrammable’ aesthetic – quite simply they should look good in terms of design and fit out.
The offer needs to appeal – craft beers and interesting soft drinks, non-alcoholic or ‘healthy’ cocktails, a focus on the provenance and authenticity of products. Good food which encourages sharing and promotes socialising (think Dinerama).
Entertainment is also a critical factor factor – theme nights, film screenings, quizzes, escape rooms – activities that will drag them from their bedrooms and through the pub doors.
Oh yes… and wifi is an absolute non-negotiable must.
Over the years pubs have always reinvented themselves, responding to the changing demands of customers and wider society. They continue to successfully provide a ‘third space’, distinct from home and the workplace.
If operators can rise to the challenge of meeting the exacting demands of Gen Z, it could well be their biggest achievement yet.
Follow me on Twitter @mrmikeberry