“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”
Sounds like it’s about today’s throngs of texting youths, right? Well, it’s not. That quote has been attributed to many people, including Socrates and Plato. For some reason I thought those words, which I first was introduced to by a social studies teacher in junior high, were from Confucius.
And I also have seen them linked to a speech by the Mayor of Amsterdam in 1966. The quote speaks an age-old truth, be it an age of decades or centuries: Each new generation has unique characteristics that confound the folks who came before.
Today we are perplexed by the so-called Millennials, generally born between 1976 and 1995. The group boasts 84 million members — a figure worth noting by all businesses given that it’s 4 million more people than the game-changing phalanx of baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964.
In this issue’s special report, Mark Brandau, a Millennial himself, talks with restaurateurs, demographers and other experts about the generation’s habits and hopes as both consumers and employees. The article, which starts on page 3, explains the potential boon this group — which loves dining out as much as it loves technology — presents to the restaurant industry.
On the subject of youth and its importance to the industry’s future, $350,000 was raised by the National Restaurant Association and its Educational Foundation during a recent golf outing designed to benefit ProStart, a national career program for high school students interested in the culinary arts. Details of that event can be found on the NRA Insights page, and photos from the event can be viewed on NRN.com.
Separately, Carlton Curtis, this year’s vice chair of the NRAEF and vice president of industry affairs for Coca-Cola Foodservice, told me in a recent conversation that the NRAEF already has garnered $1.3 million in signed commitments and $500,000 in unsigned commitments, well on the way to reaching $3 million in 2011.
No doubt such support — much of it in the form of scholarships — will win operators much loyalty going forward. And the importance of loyalty cannot be underestimated. In another story beginning on page 3 and continuing in the Marketing section, we examine the updated loyalty programs cropping up across the industry. These programs take advantage of improved tracking technologies and better capitalize on customers’ spending patterns. Officials at Panera Bread, one such company with a new loyalty program, recently estimated that the program contributed to about “two-thirds of the transaction lift” in Panera’s most recent fourth quarter.
Almost as pressing as building repeat business is the need for chains of 20 or more units to turn their attention to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s menu-labeling rules unveiled April 1. As industry watchdogs continue to digest what one calls the “disappointing” guidelines enumerated in the 183-page document, managing editor Paul Frumkin also combed the manuscript to bring readers its most salient points. The lowdown can be found in Business Intel.
And in both the Operations and Finance sections, we look at the havoc that increasing commodity costs are causing in the supply chain and the boardroom, respectively.
In Finance, columnist Steve Rockwell dispenses advice to both executives contemplating price increases and investors looking for sound investments.
Uncertainty is another age-old certainty, and it’s something that today’s Millennials, a group with a high unemployment rate, share with generations before them. Confucius really did say this: “A youth is to be regarded with respect. How do you know that his future will not be equal to our present?”
And with luck it will be even better.
Robin Lee Allen
Follow me on Twitter @RobinLeeAllen