August 2, 2013

Boomers at the Door: Let ‘em in!

5 Tips for Getting More Baby Boomers in Your Restaurant

Baby Boomers have long been known as wonderful restaurant customers. Now that many are retiring, you might think they’re finally slowing down.

Well, that would be wrong. The oldest categories of Boomers, those who are now age 55 and older, are going out to restaurants more than ever before, according to data from NPD Group. And even younger Boomers, those age 48 to 54, are eating out more often than people in other age groups.

So how do you attract Boomers to your restaurant? Here are five tips based on information in the NPD Group study:

Make Sure They Can Read the Menu

People’s eyesight starts to fade around age 40, so it’s likely that many of the Boomers visiting your restaurant have lost some of their eyesight. Accommodate that three ways: 1) make the print on your menus crisp and bright, with a font that stands out clearly against the background; 2) Make reading glasses available (you can buy them for a few dollars each at a dollar store, so stock up); and 3) Make sure your lighting is comfortable (not glaringly bright, but bright enough at the table that Boomers aren’t reaching for their flashlights).

Create Boomer Deals

Boomers don’t think they’re senior citizens, so don’t insult them by offering the “Senior Discount.” Instead, consider creating a “Boomer Discount” that trims 5 percent off the meal cost for 50-year-plus customers on your slowest evening. And keep in mind that many Boomers have happy memories of their younger party days, so consider starting a Boomer Happy Hour that brings back those happy times.

Turn Down the Volume

Boomers love music – after all, a lucky few saw the Beatles in person! – but when they eat out, they want to be able to hold a conversation with their friends. Like their eyesight, hearing loss is not uncommon among Boomers, so loud music can be a major turnoff. If possible, consider creating some spaces in your restaurant where the music is more muted. Or at least be prepared to play the music more softly during Boomer Happy Hour.

Make Me Comfortable

You’ve probably seen 10 young people jam around a four-top table without complaint. Boomers don’t want to do that. They want comfortable, well-spaced seating and sturdy tables that don’t wobble. And don’t seat them near drafty doors on cold days, nor near big loud groups.

Consider Smaller, Healthy Menu Options

As people age, many require less nutrition, and many are watching their diet closely. Accommodate that with options for smaller portions of your most popular menu items, and “heart healthy” menu items. Also train your wait and cook staff to happily accommodate Boomer couples who split an entrée rather than order separate entrees – instruct them to evenly divide the entrée onto two plates, so each diner still gets the experience of his or her own meal.

These five steps should help you attract more Boomers, and keep them coming back for years to come.

 “Operators just need to keep in mind that reaching the older customers requires recognizing what it is they want from their restaurant experiences,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst.

August 2, 2013

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