Kim Rothstein

Kim Rothstein

Strategic Food Industry Consultant

Generation Y is the group that foodservice pros should be thinking about the most, Rothstein said. By the year 2020, Generation Y and the next generation behind it combined, will make up 56 percent of the population, Rothstein observed, saying it is a generation conditioned by Starbucks to “get what they want, when they want it, and feel good about it.”

Rothstein encouraged attendees to take a good look at successful retail establishments where Gen Y spends its eating/socializing time: the locally relevant and globally responsible Starbucks; the Cheesecake Factory, with its variety, quality and “right-sized” plates; Chipotle, where the ingredients are ethical and fresh; and Panera, where the food is quality, but the atmosphere is welcoming and laid-back.

“You have to steal share from this group,” she said. “Knowing your competition is everything. How have you planned to do it?”

“They (Gen Y) are all about experience,” Rothstein said, adding that, “even though we're often given facilities that we have to work with,” that operators still need to realize that “lighting and signage is where the rubber meets the road when you decide if you want Gen Y or the Boomers.” Rothstein, who has completed an extensive body of research with thousands of young people, has found that “they like low light and loud music. Turn up the music and turn down the lights” to attract this coveted demographic.

“Think about everything from the customer's perspective. Shop where they shop. Eat where they eat. Park where they park,” she said.