Dec. 7, 2016
By Sean Baker, President, IMM
Teenagers are becoming foodies faster than they can tie the laces on their designer sneakers, according to Piper Jaffrey's annual Taking Stock with Teens survey. It found that restaurants represent 22 percent of overall spending for upper-income teens. And when making their selections, they're are choosing limited-service concepts at a 50 percent greater rate than full-service concepts. And, not necessarily surprising, food is only one of two categories outpacing athletic wear with all male teens, according to the report.
When thinking about when teens are spending, it's certainly the off-campus lunch hour, but it's also late afternoon — after school and before practice — historically a slow day-part. As you solidify your restaurant marketing plans, consider the following five opportunities to reach the heads and hearts of the typically finicky teenaged consumer:
1. Don't try to beat them, join them.
A dining room full of teenagers can be a bit overwhelming for other diners, but don't deter teens from visiting, especially during dayparts that are otherwise slow. Smart restaurant marketing includes developing relationships with schools, giving out schwag or running a teen-focused promotion to encourage brand affinity between the hours of 2 and 4 p.m.
2. Be relevant, but don't try too hard.
No one can spot an inauthentic attempt to capitalize on a trend or current event like a teenager. If it makes sense for your brand, create a tie, but if it feels like a stretch, it probably is. It will likely do more harm than good.
3. Be friendly.
Everyone likes to feel welcome, and teens are no exception. Be gracious and treat teens with respect. Because they are accustomed to being belittled, a little courtesy will go a long way.
4. Put them to the test.
Teens love to try new things. If you're interested in testing a new menu item or line extension, conduct events or run promotions when teens are most available and allow them to provide feedback — it'll be candid.
5. Don't be afraid to embrace the teen consumer.
This is the most important point. After all, their money is just as good as anyone's.
As the restaurant industry faces among the lowest annual revenues since 2008, the teen market represents a bright spot in future spending. For the restaurant that does it right, there's a goldmine waiting to be discovered.