Culintro, the member-based culinary community, brings restaurant industry leaders together through its blog, newsletters, and wide range of networking and trade events. Their latest event took place Tuesday night and featured a discussion panel about millennial dining habits. The panel included our very own Harris Damashek, co-founder of Underground Eats, and he was joined by Corey Cova (chef and owner of Earl’s Cheese Bar, ABV, and Dough Loco), and Andrew Tarlow (owner of renowned restaurants Marlow and Sons, Diner, Reynard, among others). The discussion was moderated by Anne McBride, the director of the Experimental Cuisine Collective at NYU and also the culinary program and editorial director for the Strategic Initiatives Group at the Culinary Institute of America.
Millennials, defined as ages 18-33, are a demographic that make up a large part of the restaurant scene. When it comes to dining, they are known for being difficult to please and also adventurous eaters who like trying new foods and new restaurants. They are also known for hypocritical as they are concerned about sustainability and are interested in knowing where their food comes from, but will also enjoy a Wendy’s burger and fries. While there are many characteristics, outside of dining habits, that define the millennial generation, Tuesday’s panel covered those that have impacted the restaurant and food scene while discussing how the industry has changed as a result. Here are some highlights:
Ann: Millennial diners are big on the local and sustainable food movement, how much of this to do you practice?
Andrew- “I made a clear distinction that we don’t advertise where we get items on the menu. All of the meat is sourced from local animals, and whole animals. One of the businesses we have is a butcher shop, which provides all of our sourcing. We don’t put that on the menus because I feel like if the local food movement is really going to take hold then every restaurant is going to actually do that. That forces my staff to think beyond that.”
Corey-” We carry seasonal products so every October we have goats. The hope is that year after year people come back and know next October is goat season. Hopefully that trend continues and people will recognize when we have these seasonal products. We try to be clear with out customers and in the end it comes down to using your best judgment.”
Ann: How important is the sense of community to Millennials? What might be some of the ways in which you make people feel like they are a part of what you’re doing?
Harris- “We try to offer a different brand of hospitality, pushing that as far as we can. Dining is more than sustenance, it’s about breaking bread with people, breaking down barriers, and creating events that take people beyond what they are used to.”
Andrew- “We try and create a community with staff first and foremost. Creating a space we all want to spend time in, because it’s a place we spend the most time. Once we come together like that, other people will want to be a part of that. Something that people can feel they want to be a part of.”
Corey- “We try to spend the time to train people we look forward to working with and have personalities that will mesh well with everyone. I would prefer to have people that I trust and enjoy being around than someone with a ton of experience that isn’t pleasant to work with.”
Ann: Values are very important to millennial diners, how do you communicate your values to guests?
Harris- “We’re all about experience. Pigeonholing people and saying they are only interests in certain things isn’t the right approach. We have $40 food trucks events, which I love, and $1000 truffle dinners with Mario Batali. Millennials love both low- and high-brow events and we try to provide them with that experience.”
Ann: What role does social media play for you?
Harris-”The first thing to note is 88% of millenials whip out their phone during meals to use social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook), so that’s now a whole thing. It’s never been any different in that you can only control what you do and it’s up to people to interpret what they want. Social media doesn’t dictate where people go”
Corey- “Once the donut shop opened up it became such a necessity to let people know what we had in stock and when we had run out. Simply because we only have one fryer and produce a limited amount. It’s really a tool to communicate with customers. For me social media acts as a diary to look back at my progress.”
You can also check out Culintro’s full interview with Harris on their blog!