Customization is key for the millennial generation, which comprises 69 million U.S. adults ages 18-34, according to market research firm Packaged Facts. Their pursuit of personalized, unique and novel offerings has created a ripple effect throughout the U.S. food and beverage industry.
“As the new slogan from Burger King has it, it’s not just ‘Have It Your Way’ — it’s ‘Be Your Way,’” Packaged Facts said.
The shift toward fresh, creative and customized made-to-order meals has been a “game changing” development especially in the fast-casual food service segment, Packaged Facts said.
“The impact goes beyond the limited ‘white, wheat, or rye’ custom options of yesteryear to encompass restaurant meals that are bespoke in their entirety,” Packaged Facts said.
To meet millennials’ demand for food tailored to their tastes, restaurateurs are expanding into areas such as create-your-own-salad concepts, new-wave Asian and adaptable global cuisine.
Salad concepts such as Sweetgreen, Tossed and Mean Greens have sprouted up as a response to millennials’ desire to experiment with healthy alternatives to fast food, Packaged Facts said. Customers may choose their own greens, vegetables, toppings and dressings, often paired with a fresh-squeezed juice or smoothie. Such restaurants boast locally sourced, fresh and natural ingredients as well as vegan and gluten-free options. Additionally, they appeal to millennials’ social consciousness with their eco-friendly design and community building efforts via social media.
“If the menu includes a manifesto or statement of core values, you’re in the right place,” Packaged Facts said.
The personalization movement is rewriting the playbook for Chinese, Japanese and South Asian cuisine, Packaged Facts said. The trend is spurring a new wave of Asian fast-casual restaurants that offer customized meals with more sophisticated ingredients and authentic flavors, all within a framework of pan-Asian culinary tradition.
“From stir-fry to noodle bars to sushi, it’s not entirely about authenticity,” Packaged Facts said. “It’s about new flavors and custom-built meals.”
Less familiar global cuisines, such as Indian and Korean, may also see success from adopting the customization-oriented fast-casual format, Packaged Facts said. In these concepts, customers may control their experience even as they experiment with new flavors and ingredients.
“Salad bars and self-service hot food stations set the stage in both food service and retail for a full-fledged customized dining lifestyle,” Packaged Facts said. “Once customers get a taste of customization, they won’t look back.”