How to attract Millennials was a common theme at the 55th annual Multi Unit Foodservice Operators (MUFSO) conference in Dallas. The conference brings nearly 1,000 restaurant operators, suppliers and other industry professionals together to learn and network. Lawrence & Schiller’s Robin Zebroski and I accompanied Taco John’s Chief Marketing Officer, Billie Jo Waara, to the conference.
Nancy Cruse, president of The Cruse Company, said that there are three disruptive trends currently affecting society: the rise of the Millennials, the technologically driven economy and the ongoing economic malaise. She said customers are craving comfort from restaurants in these uncertain times.
“We hunker down. We hunger for reassurance. We go back to basics,” she said, noting that Mason jar sales are at an all-time high.
Transparency in food is increasingly important to Millennials, Kruse said, noting that it relates to health and wellness in the minds of consumers.
She added that although using local products can be a challenge for restaurants, they can still benefit by pointing to the foods’ origins, like Arby’s successful Smokehouse Brisket, which is marketed as being “smoked at least 13 hours in a pit smoker in Texas.”
Despite the challenges that foodservice operators face, from minimum wage increases to rising commodity prices, the industry remains resilient, optimistic and proud.
That mood was summed up by Alwin Lewis, CEO of Potbelly Sandwiches, who drew applause during the conference’s final session when he expressed great pride that the industry safely feeds so many people each day. “Think about how many we feed every day,” Lewis said. “We are in the customer service business in a real way.”