I came across this piece (“A Booming Business”) on the National Restaurant Association’s website and found it mostly on target, even though some of the items come close to parodying the notion of baby boomers as, well, starting to dodder a bit.
The premise is that — as I’ve been pointing out frequently on this blog — baby boomers are a huge potential market for travel-related businesses, though many restaurant owners simply don’t know how to attract them.
According to the piece, America’s boomers — 76 million strong — spent $172 billion in U.S. restaurants in 2012 and spent more per capita than did younger diners (boomers now run from ages 49 to 67).
Yet, an industry analyst (who authored a report on the subject) found that “this is a group of people who feel neglected. Restaurant operators have not paid enough attention to their wants and needs.”
To rectify the situation, the analyst had a number of suggestions to make boomers feel more wanted and comfortable when dining out. Here are some I found mostly helpful, if a tad condescending (the parenthetical comments are my own):
* Turn the music down and use carpeting and other design elements to keep noise down. (Which goes to show that not all baby boomers are going deaf, though some restaurant music threatens to finish the job that the Rolling Stones started.)
* Turn up the lighting a bit so that aging boomers can read the menu and “enjoy their meals” (and not bite into their napkins by mistake?).
* In a similar vein, “improve menu readibility” by using more readable fonts and color combinations. (So boomers don’t order the chateaubriand thinking it’s the daily blue plate special.)
* Make dining out “entertaining,” through use of open kitchens and chef’s tables. “Boomers see themselves as hip, cool and relevant,” says the analyst. (Even if they’re chewing on their napkins in the dim light.)
Now here are some that I can totally get behind (again, the parenthetical comments are mine):
* Set out more comfortable chairs.
* “Give service with a smile.” “Boomers really want the people serving them to be polite and friendly,” says the analyst. (As we used to say: duh.)
* “Offer smaller portions.”
* “Highlight heart-healthy options.”
* Offer “opportunities to indulge” (translation: don’t take burgers and fries off the menu).
* “Provide promotional offers,” such as frequent-dining programs and other deals.
* Aim for a balance, and don’t ignore younger diners — who “come in later and spend more at the bar.”
So here’s my suggestion: At about nine o’clock, as the baby boomers are filing out and the younger crowd is piling in, crank up the music to 110 decibels, dim the lights, inflate prices and portions, bring out the hard wooden chairs, and sneer at the diners when they ask where their entrees are.
Wait a minute — that sounds a lot like half the places I’ve eaten in lately.
My point being: while the above ideas are indeed excellent suggestions to attract boomers, don’t most of them appeal to just about any age group?
Restaurateurs, take note.
Don’t forget to download my free report, “How to Ride the Coming Wave of Boomers,” available here. It’s all about the best ways to market travel to baby boomers — the biggest-spending group of travelers the world has ever seen. It’s also the easiest way to subscribe to my blog, so you won’t miss a posting. Thanks!