The Boomer Consumer
Don't rule out these still influential eaters.
If you can remember Encyclopedia Britannica, SwansonTV dinners, party lines, TV converter boxes, banana seat bicycles, transistor radios, the Sears Wishbook catalogue, and the last Stanley Cup parade in Toronto, then you’re a Baby Boomer or the parent of one.
CANADIAN GENERATIONS DEFINED
Baby Boomers: Back-end Boomers: Age 54-65, Front-end Boomers: Age 66-72
Generation X: 1965 to 1979 - Age 39-53
Generation Y: 1980 to 1994 - Age 24-38, often referred to as Boomers’ kids or Millennials
Generation Z: 1995 to 2010 - Age 8-23, the newest generation to be named
Boomers still make up the largest segment of the Canadian population. But, beyond this, they hit above their weight in terms of economic impact.
HITTING THE TARGET
According to Technomic’s 2018 Generational Consumer Trend Report, more than half of people (in the U.S.) between the ages of 53 and 72 use foodservice on a weekly basis.
Given their disposition to not go gently into retirement, and the purchasing power that accrues from their accumulated personal wealth, Boomers are worth paying attention to.
Here are some other takeaways Technomic has flagged for savvy restaurant operators:
Boomers are big flavour seekers. 70% say taste is an important menu attribute and 66% of respondents like to explore new flavours, especially when they are added to perennial favourites, such as burgers and chicken.
IDEA: Add on-trend sauces and condiments like Sriracha mayo or Korean Gochujang (a red chili paste) ketchup – an easy way to transform a menu staple into a hot new “ethnic” LTO.
Boomers are brand loyal and enjoy patronizing their favourite restaurants. 36% tend to visit the same few restaurants each time they go out to eat. But they also value food quality and taste more than other age groups — and 68% value food quality.
IDEA: Set up a mobile loyalty program offering members a free appetizer if they order in the month of their birthday, breakfast/lunch cumulative rewards based on frequency of purchase, discounted pricing on staple items for referring a friend (BOGO), first-in-line access to LTO items before they are widely promoted, exclusive smartphone pop-up rewards based on geo-locators and time of day.
Boomers like deals. 50% enjoy looking for value in their dining experiences. According to global research done by Oracle Hospitality in 2018:
- 59% of customers choose a restaurant because of a competitive price/promotion
- 76% of restaurant guests note that immediate benefits are more appealing than accumulating points
- 72% of restaurant guests like loyalty programs where points are automatically redeemed
IDEA: According to Google, almost 40% of Baby Boomers own a smartphone or tablet. Baby Boomers are also very active social media users. According to the National Restaurant Association’s Research, 56% of consumers age 45-64 have recently used technology options inside restaurants. Keep this in mind when you build a promotion/discount strategy for Boomers:
- Offer incentive promotions to draw loyal customers in AND in-store loyalty discounts that are redeemable on the current visit.
- Leverage the reach of being easily available for messaging and redemption on mobile phones and tablets.
Boomers like their restaurants clean. 63% of boomers say cleanliness is a very important feature in restaurants, especially as it applies to clean bathrooms and utensils.
IDEA: Key is getting your staff to live the old restaurant adage every day - Time to lean, time to clean. A cleanliness culture starts with training, supported by a regular, accountable cleaning schedule for your employees. Taking things to another level, you can extend this mission beyond premises, and emphasize the importance of clothing/uniform cleanliness.
Factors driving Boomer food choices and restaurant visits
- FLAVOUR SEEKERS - Boomers enjoy trying new flavours in familiar foods - 66% of respondents like to explore new flavours.
- BRAND LOYAL - Thirty-six percent tend to visit the same few restaurants each time they go out to eat.
- QUALITY & TASTE - Boomers index food quality and taste more than other age groups—70% say taste is an important menu attribute and 68% value food quality.
- DEAL OR NO DEAL - Along with taste and quality, price turns the dial for Boomers. Gen Xers are the most likely to seek deals and discounts at restaurants (55% say they do so), baby boomers come in a close second at 50%.
- FLEXITARIANS - Few Boomers are full-time vegetarians BUT more than 50% say they plan to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables.
- CLEANLINESS MATTERS - Restaurant cleanliness matters to Boomers, with 63% saying it is a very important attribute.
- PICKY ABOUT TAKEOUT - Order accuracy is a top priority to 70% of baby boomers, and 75% expect the food quality and taste to be as good as it is when dining in the restaurant. Convenience is not as important to this generation as it is to Millennials and Gen Zers.
- PERSONALIZED SERVICE - Boomers are less likely to order from a mobile device or app. Boomers still value customer service in casual dining.
- CASH IS KING - Not fans of cashless operations and kiosk ordering at QSRs and restaurants.
BOOMER EATING HABITS ARE A’CHANGIN’
How have Boomer tastes and eating habits changed since 2001? The NPD Group has a number of survey instruments that track historical food consumption of Canadians at home and away from home.
LIMITING THE MEAT
Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, Project Lead, Institute of Agrifood Analytics at Dalhousie University, has data confirming the finding that Boomers are eating less meat.
Overall, Canadian beef consumption is down by 16% or 94 million kilos per year, compared to 2010. Over six million Canadians have either adopted a meatless diet or are have adopted a “flexitarian” lifestyle, limiting the amount of meat they eat every week, AND, nearly a third of Canadians are “thinking about” reducing meat consumption in 2019.
While this trend noticeably skews to younger consumers, more than 42% of flexitarians are Boomers, who view reduced meat consumption as a healthy choice. (Read our story on Meatless Options in this issue.)
THE BOTTOM LINE?
For the first time in its history, in 2017, Canada has more residents 65+ than children 14 years or younger.
Time will continue to march for Boomers who remain working and those participating in society in other ways. But, just as they demanded attention when they first came of age, aging Boomers will reward operators who hear them.
So, it makes good sense, and will make for good business, to keep the specific likes and dislikes of this demographic multitude in mind to keep fueling the growth of your foodservice operation.
WHY SHOULD YOU PAY ATTENTION TO THE BABY BOOMERS?
- They hold the largest purchasing power.
- They eat out more than any other demographic.
- They prefer to choose full-service restaurants.