Teenagers represent an interesting demographic. Most young people between 12 and 19 are in a highly-volatile state of growth, development and life-change. They are transitioning from childhood to adulthood, but they may not realize it yet. In this stage of uncertainty, a lot of what appeals to teenagers revolves around what's trendy, known among their peers and is generally accepted as "cool." In order to grab the attention of the trendy-seeking teenage set, successful restaurants need to find a way to treat this demographic as young adults while offering something tasty, affordable and on par with their changing expectations.
Create a space that can become a prime lunch-time or after school hangout. Incorporate comfy couches, youth-oriented magazines and if your restaurant has a television, switch on MTV or a student-led news channel. Another big draw for teens is finding a space where they can plug in and tune out. Provide that space and offer a free password protected wireless Internet connection for all customers. Learn more about Creating a Restaurant's Concept
Complicated organization, descriptive words that look or are foreign and lengthy ordering processes can turn a hungry young mind from your menu and back out the door in search of something easier. A clear and easy to read menu will benefit everyone.
A great example of making ordering simple and fun can be found in the Denver-based sandwich shop, Which Wich. This restaurant offers easy ingredient options and built-in to-go bags for easy ordering. Patrons walk in, mark their preferences on a paper bag, and hand the bag back across the deli counter where the order is filled and handed back, bagged and ready to go. It’s an easy “sack lunch” option, yet a step above mom’s PB&J.
Appealing to a younger demographic automatically implies the use—or at least some comprehension—of modern technology. Young people are using mobile devices at an earlier age and by middle school many pre-teens are engaged in online social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. By high school, teenagers are used to and expecting to engage with people and companies they like while using the most contemporary technologies. To keep your restaurant relevant with this tech savvy crowd, consider the following:
- Maintain a website. Interactivity, like games and trivia, can make an impression with young people. Making the menu and contact information easy to find will benefit anyone who visits you online. Learn more about Creating a Restaurant Website
- Get a Facebook account. Many young people are on Facebook, and it makes sense for you to be, too. Young patrons will find you on Facebook, “Like” your business, and promote it to their online friends, especially if you offer a freebie or $1 off drink promotion periodically in exchange for "Likes." Learn more about Restaurant Social Media Marketing
- Use email marketing for birthday specials. There are a few traditionally important birthdays during the teenage years, such as turning 13 and becoming a teenager, turning 16 and getting a driver’s license, or turning 18, a gateway into legal adulthood. Learn more about Restaurant Email Marketing
When young people start to reach puberty, it becomes a matter of pride to order from a real menu rather than a children’s menu. Typically, kids’ menus are limited to people under 12 years old. Instruct servers to present the option of a kids’ menu tactfully if it’s not obvious that someone is at least 13 years old. Beyond that, be prepared to offer menu items that are healthful but tasty to appeal to younger tastes.
Lunch money from mom and pop doesn’t cover a “hot lunch” like it used to. Even if a high school kid has a job, he or she can appreciate saving a buck or two when they want to grab a burger or a burrito with friends. Try offering a student special:
- Give a free soda or a $1 off a burger with a valid student I.D.
- Offer to help promote a students’ theatre group, musical ensemble or sports team and donate a portion of all sales on a certain day to the students’ organization.
- Since most teenagers are in school, this is a good way to earn their patronage.