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Every generation says it, “things aren’t what they used to be”, “kids aren’t raised the same way we were”, “we did it differently”. And every generation is right! Things aren’t made the same way, beliefs are changing, technology has advanced, and times are different. In reality every generation starts out with different experiences and different skills which builds on the differences in trends, tastes, and ideologies. What millennials find important today, may not be what their baby boomer parents find important, nor what traditionalist grandparents would have even been concerned with; making it even more essential for companies to understand what each generation is looking for and how to market to the accordingly.

As time elapses it seems that trends and fads come back in style with each generation putting their own spin on them.

  • Healthy Trend: A general direction in something that is continually developing and changing.
  • Healthy Fad: An intense and widely shared enthusiasm. Often short lived or a craze.

Healthful Food Trends and Their Impact on the Restaurant IndustryDepending on the person you talk to the term “healthy” can mean different things to different people so it is important to understand what food trends are current in today’s community.

Today Consumers are Looking for many Dietary Requests When Dining:

  • Gluten Free: Those who request gluten free options include individuals with Celiac Disease, Gluten Sensitivity, Wheat Intolerance, and hopes to improve IBS, IBD, and GI symptoms. Restaurants need to understand the risks involved with cross contamination. People follow gluten-free diets for different reasons and educating your staff is key to accommodating your patrons.
  • Paleo or The Caveman Diet: This diet is high in proteins such as; fish and shellfish, beef, chicken, eggs and also includes; fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and healthful oils including olive oil, macadamia oil, flaxseed, walnut, avocado, and coconut. The diet avoids cereal grains, legumes, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, refined oils, and excess sodium. Milk products and avoided or consumed in small amounts.
  • Organic: Foods grown and raised with no pesticides, no chemical fertilizers, picked when ripe, healthful farming practices, no sewage fertilizers, no radiation or GMOs, no antibiotics.
  • Antibiotic Free: Animals raised without growth hormones or antibiotics
  • Humanely Raised: Animals are pasture-raised, grass fed, with no antibiotics, slaughtered in the least painful and stressful way possible.
  • Sustainable: Food grown and raised on farms with methods that support the environment, public health, and animal welfare. Sustainable practices include crop rotation, conservation tillage, pasture-raised livestock, and cross-pollinating.
  • Farm to Table: Local food that is picked fresh. Restaurants use community agriculture supporting sustainable and organic foods. People believe that this increases flavor and product integrity.
  • Akins: Avoids all or most carbohydrates. Utilizing proteins and fats as the base of the diet.  Other variations of this diet are found with modified amounts of carbohydrates or an emphasis on more veggies and leaner less saturated protein options.

Dietary Needs Based on Other Health Issues:

  • Low FODMAP: Helpful in about 70% of those suffering from IBS.
  • Vegetarian: Plant based diet that may consume eggs and dairy, lifestyle choice.
  • Whole Food Plant Based: Similar to vegan but less issues with cross contamination . Avoids most animal products with some exceptions depending on the person following it.
  • Vegan: Plant based diet that does not include any animal products, without exception. Doesn’t even want the same cooking area.  Often an animal rights philosophy.
  • Raw Food Diet: Foods are not cooked greater than 115 degrees, foods are not pasteurized, and don’t have pesticides or chemicals. Methods of preparation include juicing, dehydrating, puree, and sprouting. Those following this diet believe that the food has more enzymes and better health properties. Lots of nuts, seeds, and fresh produce are consumed. May have some food safety risks depending on storage of food.
  • Non-GMO: Many people today are looking for foods that are GMO free.  When an animal or plants DNA has been altered to change it, it is considered a GMO altered food. These changes would have never occurred naturally. GMOs are not required to be labeled in the US or Canada, but are required in 64 other countries. This topic is highly controversial, and health risks are still not fully known
  • Food Allergies: Should be highly recognized in all foodservice facilities. The top eight allergens include: Egg, Fish, Shellfish, Milk, Soy, Wheat, and Peanuts and Tree Nuts. Practices should be set in place to prevent cross contamination if a patron has a food allergen. Continual staff education should also be in place to prevent the risk of allergen contaminations.
  • Low Calorie: For weight loss, note measurements of servings and ingredients essential.
  • Low Sodium: Difficult to follow in a restaurant without understanding of all foods that include sodium, strict label reading on new products and the use of measuring spoons and such.
  • Low Fat: People following this diet may a family history or an history of their own, with pre-diabetes, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol/triglycerides,  cancer or just a concern for a healthier diet.  Most high fat animal products are reduced or avoided, healthier oils and nuts are used but they still need to be used in only small amounts because they are 100% fat.
  • Diabetic Meal Planning: This is a more complex diet then just sugar-free options or no carbs.  People with diabetes or pre-diabetes need carbohydrates but in more controlled portions.  They are also looking for low-fat and lower sodium meals due to the many complications of managing these meal plans.  A registered dietitian and possibly and certified diabetes education must be brought in to help a restaurant make appropriate recommendations on their menus.

By implementing protocols to follow when a person makes a request and continually training your staff properly will assure your patrons have the best dining experience possible.   Again make sure you bring in an expert for accuracy.

  • New programs must have top down support
  • Training needs to be on going especially with turn over
  • There are no take for granted points
  • Encourage questions from your staff
  • Make sure policies and information is printed and consistent
  • Overall key is customer comfort and confidence

Making sure your staff understands the policies of your company and is comfortable asking questions. By encouraging staff to learn new things will prevent common mistakes, which could put your patrons health in danger. These common mistakes include:

  • Saying yes, but not fully understanding the request
  • Offering limited options
  • Making a customer feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about their request
  • Not valuing customers request
  • Not being consistent with policies
  • Not labeling your menu accurately or at service
  • Giving incorrect information

Know your Customer Base:

By making sure you know what your patrons are looking for when dining out you can make the right choices to build your cliental.  It is important to consider everything when developing your menu and restaurant atmosphere. Therefore you must not only know details about the dietary requests you must also know what the customers you are catering to are looking for in their experience, which also means understanding generational differences.

Traditionalist: Born 1927-1945 (72-90 years old)

  • Most are not working and therefore on fixed incomes, increasing their interest for Early Bird Specials.
  • Most meals are at home but enjoy socializing with family and friends during events, or easy to visit comfortable restaurant locations.
  • Consider having stairs that are not as high, handrails, handicap parking, handicap ramps and handicap bathrooms.
  • Don’t like to feel rushed
  • Consider low-fat, low sodium, diabetic options on your menus.

Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1963 (54-71 years old)

  • These trendsetters don’t feel like they are aging and want to continue feeling youthful and healthy
  • Frequently enjoy full service restaurants the most and enjoy traditional style meals while looking for premium quality and homemade
  • Look for restaurants with large selections with some twists
  • Although they are not the most adventurous dinners they do like to try some new flavors
  • Looking to linger at restaurants
  • This generation tend to spend the most money when dining out, looking for nutritionally balanced meals, small plates, and places that cater to dietary issues

Gen Xrs: Born 1963-1979 (38-54 years old)

  • Smaller percentage of the population but tend to have high end decision making jobs
  • Value their family
  • Price sensitive
  • Sometimes harder to communicate with
  • Prepare an average of 10 meals a week, with males in this generation to be more involved in food preparation than other generations
  • Adventurous eaters, but still like their burgers and pizza like the other generations

Millennials: Born 1980-2000  (17-37 years old)

  • Fast paced and grew up with technology
  • They have experienced more opportunities for women and had dual income families
  • They favor the truth and experiences, and value green living
  • Enjoy a large amount of flavors which will influence their dining experiences
  • Look for words such as: fresh, local, unprocessed, grass fed, natural, organic, and premium
  • Will pay more for fresh food

Newbies:  Born 2000…

  • Just hitting the population more to come.

All generations are different, however they do share certain beliefs and all want to feel comfortable and safe in their dining experiences. Therefore it is important to understand your market and cater to the population you are trying to attract. Education is key when training your staff and this will ensure your customers confidence in your restaurants ability to provide them with their specific requests.

Make sure you bring in experts for accuracy and training.  Note that the more experienced someone is the higher price per hour, but they will require less hours to get the job done right.  Also when you hire outside help make it so your staff provides information to them according to their requests making it easier for them to get the job done for the lowest possible price.

Making changes requires your restaurant needs to be flexible but this will help you to bring in the customer base that you are looking for and they will have the best overall positive dining experience.   Don’t lose your edge by not catering to what your customers are looking for.