If you are wondering what attracts millennial customers to your restaurants, perhaps the No. 1 answer is the ability to provide an experience, new National Restaurant Association research finds.

According to the Association’s 2019 State of the Restaurant Industry report, millennial customers, aged 21 to 38 years old, said they would like restaurants to serve technology that improves the dining experience, offer more environmentally sustainable items, and create easier opportunities to order takeout and delivery.

Regarding the general dining experience, the report found millennials were willing to pay more to get more. Here are a few of the topline findings:

  • 51 percent said they wished that restaurants – during the reservation process ‑‑ would allow them to choose their own tables from a seating chart located on the restaurant’s website.
     
  • 42 percent said they’d be willing to pay to participate in a loyalty program that guarantees reservations on busy days, discounts certain items or offers skip-the-line privileges.
     
  • 23 percent said they would pay extra for a personal server.
     
  • 18 percent of consumers said they would pay a fee, such as $10, to secure a better table at a restaurant.

Millennials’ appetites for more technology is rooted in a desire for speed of service, accuracy, and convenience. According to the research:

  • More than six in 10 millennial diners said they wanted to see restaurants use technology to make ordering and payment easier. They added that they want technology to make takeout and delivery more convenient.
  • 56 percent said they placed a delivery or takeout order using a restaurant app or website in the past year, and were more likely than their older counterparts – Gen Xers and Baby Boomers – to order meals using self-service kiosks at quickservice or coffee shop restaurants.
  • 60 percent of millennials also indicated they want restaurant technology to provide more detailed information about food, such as nutrition, allergens and sourcing.

Environmental sustainability at restaurants also ranked high among millennials. Fifty-eight percent said they were more likely to choose one restaurant over another based on its ability to provide sustainably grown, raised and manufactured foods. Furthermore, three out of four restaurant operators said customers are more interested in environmentally sustainable menu items than they were two years ago.

“Demographics are destiny in the restaurant industry,” said Hudson Riehle, the Association’s senior vice president of research. “Understanding and meeting the dining demands of millennials is not only critical to the industry’s success, but also their loyalty to its restaurant brands.”

Download the full State of the Industry Report