Wining and Dining the Millennials

If I had the job of designing wine lists in a restaurant, I’d create one that would be double sided…

One side would continue to be strategically tailored to Baby Boomers, since their spending habits are still at the top of the spending curve. The traditional wine list would reign, because this is what boomers are used to.

The other side, however, would be something so radically different that a few boomers would find it of interest (those who love innovation), but most boomers would think it’s the kid’s menu… And, in fact, they’d be unwittingly right. It would be their kids’ menu; not one for children under 12, though.

Millennials would instantly get it, because it would be something akin to Sesame Street.

What makes me say something as seemingly ridiculous as this? Because I raised three kids on Sesame Street, and watched every segment of it with them as a stay-at-home mom. I totally understand the psychology behind what went down with not only this  Generation Y age group, but I also understand the psychology of Generation X (30+ adults). I paid attention to my children’s youth, dragging them from one lesson the the next, from one meeting to the next, from one recital to the next, one game to the next, and one Sesame Street episode to the next. I studied them from their first moment of entering the world until right now. I know them, because I remain present in their lives, and they openly talk to me on a daily basis.

Before you begin this menu, create a database, so you can actually change this menu each week, and keep track of what you’re doing. This way, it will be very diverse and exciting. With desktop publishing and affordably priced printers, this is a simple task these days. Yes, it’s ultimately a lot of work, but so was raising children. This generation is prone toward needing lots of attention; so just get on with it, if you want to forge the relational bond.

This menu should lean toward something akin to Sesame Street. This would immediate draw them in, because this is what they’ve been programmed to enjoy.

Use primary colors for images as a header or border, with a phrase they easily gravitate toward:

Wines For a New Generation

Make it global, because Sesame Street was not a regional show. It embraced the world and all the people in it, so should your menu.

Global Wine Region of the Week (Fill-in-the-Blank)

Variety of the Week

Food & Wine Pairing of the Week

Value of the Week

Sesame Street delivered quick information in rapid-fire snippets. “Today’s Sesame Street is brought to you by the Letter fill-in-the-blank (which ever is chosen for the day), and the Number fill-in-the-blank (whatever was chosen for the day).”

I wouldn’t overload this side of the menu, because Sesame Street just delivered the information so quickly that perhaps this is why so many of them gravitated  toward fast food restaurants. Primary colors, primary numbers, primary information.

Give them a few options for food and wine pairings, but don’t over load it.

This is not to trivialize their intelligence. There’s nothing unintelligent with this group of young adults. They think in quick snippets, and that’s how my wine list would deliver a new kind of message for an old way of doing business.

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8 Responses to “Wining and Dining the Millennials”

  1. Sandra says:

    As a Millennial myself, I found your article utterly hilarious. While I appreciate your efforts in pointing out that marketing towards different groups require different methods (Marketing 101 – Customer Segmentation!), the continuous reference back to Sesame Street did sting a little. We are a generation that lacks an expansive attention span but at the same time, we crave information. I would add that in addition to “Varietal of the Week”, there is some education about the varietal, the region, why that specific wine pairing works, etc. But in small snippets of course.

  2. Jo, you’re on to something. I wonder why no one has done this before. Or have they? I would make the selected wine region relatively small — instead of New Zealand, make it Central Otago. That helps to narrow the focus of the wines, and also to educate consumers, which is our primary task.

    By the way, Boomers are the demographic group that’s been worst hit by the crisis (along with old people). So I’m not sure that “their spending habits are still at the top of the spending curve.” Mine sure aren’t!!!

  3. Ryan says:

    First of all I would like to say that you are on to something. I am a 26 year old wine enthusiast who can see a few merits in your idea. However, I do think that your overall generalization of this group is not necesarily on target and that some of your rhetoric is rather insulting. We’re not chimps and we’re not simple minded. I would argue that the millenials are much more aware of style and composition than the baby boomers(albeit a different style). Furhter, your assumption that the millenials gravitate towards fast food because of their need for quick information/gratification is particularly insulting. The boomers are the ones that led these chains into proliferation and they are the ones that did not instill any knowledge of cooking into their kids because a family dinner was a big mac and fries or a kids meal. I do, however, very much like your overall idea for the wine list. A highlighted region or varietal is a great way to get EVERYONE to branch out and try something unique.

  4. Jo says:


    At the very end of this post, “This is not to trivialize their intelligence. There’s nothing unintelligent with this group of young adults. They think in quick snippets, and that’s how my wine list would deliver a new kind of message for an old way of doing business.”

    FAST FOOD: My kids never ate in one of them, if I could help it. I raised my kids with a wok. The fattening of American has happened with all generations, since they first opened, during the 1960’s. I was there, and the food disgusted me… Still does.

  5. Jo says:


    Too bad that Sesame Street has any kind of sting… I still love the show, as just revisited with a grand daughter over the weekend. Maria’s the show’s elder. That stings… (!)

    I like your idea of some education, as I saw getting this to a new way of delivery, and you’re onto making it even better.

  6. Jo says:


    I haven’t seen it done yet. I come up with ideas, and then things seem to happen. I think as I’m thinking it, there’s some universal “Aha!” moment, and others, too, have the same kind of epiphany… Then, things happen.

    This particular generation is said to be the next big spending one. I’ve had a life of forward thinking, because I can’t change history but I can do something about the future.

    I just read a great story in the Harvard Review. I’ll have to track it back, but not until tomorrow. It’s a fascinating read. The X and Y’s are more frugal, and we won’t see big spending again until the Millennials come into their own as the lead generation.

    This age demographic is delightful and very influential. If anyone doesn’t want to concede that, that person must review social media and how wine reviews are happening… Not with the establishment, but among themselves. They’re leading their own way.

  7. Mike Duffy says:

    Great idea, Jo. The key is to change it weekly, of course. I’ve seen this sort of thing done in a WineStyles (in Fort Worth of all places) with great success. I hope some restaurants give this a whirl.

  8. Jo says:

    Good to know it’s begun, Mike. It just seems like such a natural thing to do. If I had a restaurant I was helping with marketing, this is the direction I’d take, post haste.

    And, yes, it would have to change each week, because if one week is the same as the week before, you just lost your audience for believing in your program.

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