Five Ways to Attract the Under-Tapped Teen Consumer with Restaurant Marketing

Nice afternoon

Teens represent a bright spot for fast casual and quick service restaurants.

Piper Jaffrey recently published its annual Taking Stock with Teens survey.  Turns out that teens are becoming foodies faster than they can tie the laces on their designer sneakers.  Restaurants now represent 22% of overall spending for upper-income teens. And when making their selections, fast-casual and quick service are resonating; teens are choosing limited-service concepts at a 50% greater rate than full-service concepts. And, not necessarily surprising, food is only one of two categories outpacing athletic wear with all male teens.

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 day-parts 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 2pm – 4pm.
  1. Be relevant but don’t try too hard: No one can spot an inauthentic attempt capitalize on a current event like a teenager. If it makes sense for your brand, create a tie around a popular trend or event.  But, if it feels like a stretch, it probably is.  It will likely do more harm than good.
  1. Be friendly: Everyone likes to feel welcome – 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.
  1. Put them to the test: Teens love to try new things. If you’re interested in trying 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.
  1. 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.

The teen market represents a bright spot in future spending for the restaurant industry. For the restaurant that does it right, there’s a goldmine waiting to be discovered. Don’t be afraid to lead the new marketing strategy. If anything, it will just show how connected you are to trends!

About Sean Baker

Sean Baker has 17+ years marketing the restaurant industry. He is the President/ Partner at IMM, a digital ad agency located in Boulder, CO.
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