Wonder Women: Beyonce says girls ‘run the world,’ so it’s high time that pizzerias learned how to market to them
Seven female millennials talk about what they’re looking for in a restaurant experience—and what they hate.
Heather Cray gets in the mood for summer while sipping one of the signature cocktails at Southern Craft Stove & Tap, an upscale wood-fired pizza restaurant in Oxford, Mississippi.
“I know why they call you millennials Generation Y,” my mother once said to me, irritably.
“It’s because all we ever hear is, ‘Why do I have to clean my room? Why do I have to buy my own plane ticket? Why do I have to get my own insurance? Why do I have to move out?’ Why are you always asking why?”
“Why not?” I responded.
For millennials, it’s not enough to ask a lot of questions—we also feel the need to question the answers. Millennials may get a bad rap, but our generation—born in the 1980s or 1990s—lives to find alternative solutions and approaches to problems so we can better shape and control our own future. We tend to be tech-savvy, pragmatic idealists and, yes, maybe a little narcissistic. We are also natural-born marketers of ourselves, perhaps the best of all time. We know social media, and we know we’re influenced by it. On various platforms, you’ll see millennials presenting the best versions of themselves. I should know—I’m one of them.
It’s time to get inside the minds of your millennial customers—the single largest generation in world history—and learn how to market your pizzeria to them. In return, they will be marketing you. And since millennial women are an especially desirable demographic for restaurant operators (they are responsible for the vast majority of total millennial spending, which is estimated at $200 billion annually), we surveyed young professional women and students in cities around the country about what they’re looking for in a pizza restaurant experience—and what makes them look elsewhere.
Huntsville, AL | Project Control Analyst
Favorite local pizzeria: Earth and Stone Wood-Fired Pizza
I have to admit, I’m influenced by other people—good reviews from friends, coworkers and family members will push me to check out a new restaurant. And I always check the online reviews and ratings, especially Yelp. Customers post photos, and I enjoy going through these to get a more realistic vision of the restaurant versus stock photos or photoshopped images on a restaurant’s website.
Social media is a huge factor. When a Snapchat friend “snaps” their meal to me, I interpret it as meaning, “This is good, looks amazing, you should try it!” And I usually do! For me, Instagram and Snapchat are a tie for No. 1, followed by Facebook and Twitter. Facebook ads influence me the most. I’m more likely to pay attention to a pizzeria’s Facebook ad, because they aren’t as annoying as Snapchat and Twitter ads.
When I dine out, I’m looking for an overall experience, and that includes a great atmosphere. About 60% of the experience is the food, while the other 40% is the social and fun atmosphere. I prefer modernized, up-to-date, in-style, fun places. There are a few “hole-in-the-wall” places I like, but my stomach and mind can’t get past a place that is run down. If the front of the house is run-down, I just assume the back of the house/kitchen are run-down, too, and that grosses me out significantly.
Tap your local influencers and celebrities. Don’t be shy—ask them to pose for photos with you and to post their own hashtagged photos to social media.
Oxford, MS | Bridal Consultant
Favorite local pizzeria: Saint Leo
I find new places through word-of-mouth. Social media absolutely influences my decision to try a new place or go back again for something new on the menu that looks delicious, especially specialty cocktails—I wish every restaurant had them! There aren’t nearly enough places in a small town to have a really good cocktail. When I know I cannot just go home and make that drink myself, it always leaves an impression. Saint Leo in Oxford changes its specialty cocktails by the season. I love the Honolulu Hotfoot, which has habanero-infused Ambhar tequila and a pineapple-bell pepper ice cube. It’s delicious and unique.
As for decor and atmosphere, it depends on my mood and my company. If I have my daughter along, I like for the place to be kid-friendly and welcoming. If I’m out with friends, I’d rather the atmosphere be upscale and sleek. I love marble countertops, contemporary lighting and unique seating.
Chicago, IL | Advertising Account Manager
Favorite local pizzerias: Happy Camper, Homeslice and Ranalli’s
Yelp, Time Out and word-of-mouth are all influential factors for me when trying a new pizza restaurant. Typically, it takes a positive review through two or more of these channels for me to dine there. I often use Instagram’s geotag feature and search by restaurant to see what pictures others have posted. The atmosphere and the “Instagram-ability” of the food and restaurant can motivate me to try a place I wouldn’t necessarily try otherwise. I also look at pictures on Yelp and on the restaurant’s website before dining there.
To me, pizza is synonymous with fun. I tend to look for restaurants with fun, quirky decor—bonus points if there’s an interactive element, like swings or a photo booth. I also gravitate toward pizzerias with outdoor areas in the summer. And I prefer a place with a full bar and specialty cocktails. They just really enhance the experience and add to the fun.
Get behind a worthy cause and make an impact on the community.
Boston, MA | LIDI Project Manager
Favorite local pizzeria: Allstar Pizza Bar
I like restaurants that have gourmet pizzas, something a bit more unusual than your average takeaway. I’m currently on a vegetarian kick, but a prosciutto, fig and blue cheese pizza—that’s my absolute weakness! I often use OpenTable for the convenience factor and look at menus and pictures. When I’m traveling in a new area, I often look at Instagram or look for blog posts on restaurant recommendations for that area. And I always look at the pizzeria’s website menu beforehand—I often already know what I’m going to order before I even set foot in the restaurant.
I love a good rooftop spot or a nice patio, and a bar is a must. Good cocktails or a nice wine selection can be a great conversation starter on a date. I hate booths, and a menu that’s too large is a big turnoff, because that means they don’t really specialize in anything. The worst is when they mix different cuisines, like Mexican and burgers. Just specialize in pizza and a handful of really good options!
Create a special offer that is consistent every week (i.e., Two-Toppings Tuesday or Wine Wednesday).
Austin, TX | Public Relations Coordinator
Favorite local pizzeria: Home Slice
I usually find new places to eat on social media. Instagram is 100% my go-to platform. I like high-quality photos and a well-designed look. If you really want me to like your Instagram account, include the price of each item in the photo’s description! I also check out deals at Retailmenot.com. If I’m online, I’m looking for deals before I even go to a pizzeria’s website. I wish more local restaurants offered easy-access online codes for discounts.
The overall experience is key. I went to a Beyoncé-themed happy hour that was a blast. Everyone dressed in outfits based on her latest album, Lemonade. You can always count on Austin to turn a happy hour into a “drag-themed brunch” or an ’80s pop party.
The biggest turnoff is when the restroom looks like something in a filthy gas station. I’m usually very forgiving—I know working at a restaurant is one of the hardest jobs—but I will remember if the bathroom is not clean. Bonus points if the bathroom has small touches—soft paper towels, a candle or mints can make a huge difference.
Oxford, MS | College Student
Favorite local pizzeria: Dodo Pizza
If the picture on social media looks good and there’s a special, I’m there. I use Facebook and Instagram the most. Offering a regular special is important to me, because it’s consistent and easy to remember. There’s a local restaurant that has Taco Night, and my friends and I make an event out of going because of the special and because we know it’s every Tuesday.
I like decor that matches the food. If you’re going to eat Mexican, the restaurant should look Mexican. If you’re going to a fancier restaurant and pay the price, there should be nice linens and an environment that matches the overall food and prices. Generally, though, I love modern-looking restaurants.
Hire a photographer to shoot high-quality photos of your food every month for Instagram.
Nashville, TN | Elementary School Teacher
Favorite local pizzeria: Mafiaoza’s and Two Boots
I love going where the local stars eat. I saw Luke Bryant on one restaurant’s Instagram, and I instantly wanted to go eat there. But a lot of times it will be a Facebook ad that pops up with a good deal, something that’s simple and not too “in your face.” When I visit a pizzeria’s website, I like to be able to easily find the menu along with daily specials and happy hours.
As a 26-year-old, there have to be drinks involved. I like it when the waiters/waitresses know their beverage menu and can give you a nice pairing suggestion. I’m drawn to fun and entertainment. My favorite outdoor patio has heaters in the summer and fans in the winter—very accommodating. The interior of the restaurant always sticks with me as well. In the Gulch area, there is a restaurant that looks like a boat on the inside. Another local favorite, an old “feed and seed,” was turned into a three-story restaurant with each level catering to music, food and dance.
If you’ve got a full-service bar, develop a few artisanal cocktails or serve craft beers with your pizzas.
Heather Cray is PMQ’s social media director.