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Memo from NYSRA: Appealing to the New-Generation Gourmand

Posted on  | August 21, 2013   Bookmark and Share
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Millenials eat too, so restaurants should care how they tick.

When Marco Chirico updated his family’s restaurant, Marco Polo in Brooklyn, he thought about what someone like him, a millennial, might be looking for when going out to eat.

There are two sides to dining, he figures: inside out and outside in. The older generation looks inside out, focusing on the professional service and food. “Younger generations want good music and fun waiters,” Chirico explains. That’s the outside in. “The last thing that a lot of restaurateurs look at is the atmosphere. But that’s what brings younger people in,” he adds.

In addition to updating the atmosphere at Marco Polo, Chirico felt some of the heavy, Italian dishes could be reimagined to entice a more health-conscious diner. He also adjusted the menu to include meat-free options like polenta and beans—despite his relatives wondering aloud why he would serve what they referred to as “poverty dishes.” Chirico, of course, kept many meat dishes on the menu. But for vegetarians to feel welcome, he knew there must be plenty of options for them to eat.

Chirico isn’t alone in his menu rethinking. At another Brooklyn establishment, Bogota Latin Bistro, co-owner Farid Lancheros finds that millennials are often the ones requesting vegetarian and gluten-free options, and he’s happy to accommodate them. Although he’s not a millennial himself (millennials were born between approximately 1980 and the early 2000s), many on Lancheros’s front of house team are, and he loves the energy that they bring. “Millennials attract millennials,” he reasons.

That energy can certainly be felt at Harlem Public, where all the managing partners are millennials. We’ve created “an atmosphere we ourselves would enjoy, with a level of service we would appreciate,” says Lauren Lynch, an owner.

Good Service, Happy Diners

The desire for good service appears to be cross-generational, and that’s good news for the team at Betony, a new restaurant in Midtown. The restaurant’s location dictates a crowd with a wide demographic range. There are families on vacation staying in nearby hotels, older couples that come in before heading to Carnegie Hall, and young professionals looking to blow off a little steam after a long day at the office.

Chef Bryce Shuman and General Manager Eamon Rockey look at their diverse diners as a blessing. They planned Betony to be flexible and comfortable for everyone. The food is modern in presentation “with recognizable flavors,” says Shuman. “And if it looks pretty it has to taste really good, too. Because who doesn’t love delicious stuff?”

The atmosphere at Betony also merges typical generation genres. The lavish grand space is complemented by a minimalist style of service and mellow soul music. Although they hope to resonate with all generations, they know they can’t be “be everything to everybody,” said Rockey.

“We’re not opening up a mac and cheese stand or a pizza joint, we’re pretty specific with the food and the drinks. The aim is that everybody can come and sit down,” adds Shuman, completing his colleague’s thought.
New York State Restaurant Association offers advocacy, education and networking opportunities to its members, as well as an array of money-saving programs related to insurance and operations. For more information, visit nysra.org or call 800-452-5212.


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