Millennials, the 19- to 34-year-olds who eat out more than any other generation, are considered by restaurant owners to be the new golden geese. But luring them in is a tricky affair.
They're not just looking for tasty treats at a good value. What they want is much more complicated: an emotional connection to a brand that is socially responsible and sustainable, using thoughtfully chosen ingredients and considerately employed workers.
They tend to have polarized views on certain restaurants. Either they adamantly refuse to patronize certain companies, or they’re fiercely and fanatically loyal.
In a new report, research group Technomic names several chains that tend to do well with millennials, currently the largest generation in the U.S.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and McAlister's Deli get kudos for social responsibility and food quality, according to Technomic.
In-N-Out and Logan's Roadhouse are popular for their focus on treating the environment and their employees well. Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich Shop and Red Lobster are known for using top-notch ingredients such as grass-fed and free-range meats, according to Technomic.
And among restaurants that support their communities with charitable donations and other efforts, Chick-fil-A and Corner Bakery Cafe were tops.
Options such as Chipotle, Five Guys and Jamba Juice are also trendy, according to a report about millennials last year from Barkley, the Boston Consulting Group and Service Management Group.
The demographic has direct spending power of about $200 billion, according to that report, which members tend to spend at restaurants that are convenient and offer healthful and exotic options.
They also have a bit of hive mind -- more likely than their predecessors to eat out in groups and also more enamored of social media and crowd-sourced boards such as Yelp.
Win one, win them all.