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21st Century Mobile Marketing For Restaurants

by | Nov 18, 2019

Is generational marketing necessary? If you answered yes, you’re absolutely right! Today, mobile marketing for restaurants has evolved in sophistication amidst changing preferences.

As a restaurant, your mobile marketing campaigns are built on using unique value propositions to target various demographics.

You can isolate people into billions of different categories. However, one of the easiest ways to segment populations is by generation. Our birth during a particular time period exposed us to a specific culture, political climate, trends, technologies, and historical events — all of these generational factors shape who we are today.

Today, we’re going to talk about the kinds of content preferred by each generation and how restaurants can use generational marketing to their advantage.

What is Generational Marketing?

Generational marketing means exactly what it says: the practice of marketing to diverse generations. However, it’s important to remember that generational marketing is also another form of targeted marketing. Instead of honing in on hyper-specific groups, generational marketing targets large groups of people based upon age.

This is especially important for restaurants.


There really isn’t any one “type” of diner. Sure, you can separate consumers into socio-economic groups but, for the most part, everyone loves food. Generational marketing allows you to segment your campaigns without accidentally excluding any particular group of people.

Basically, everyone is covered in generational marketing.

Plus, generational marketing works — REALLY well. A 50-year-old Gen X’er isn’t going to react to ads the same way a 20-year-old Gen Z’er does. Generational marketing is about figuring out why that is and finding ways to appeal to each generational group.

This allows you to advertise effectively to each generation and in the end, achieve a higher ROI and better restaurant traffic.

The Generations

According to the Pew Research Center, there are 5 living generations:

  • The Silent Generation (or Traditionalists): 1928-1945 (73-90 years old)
  • Baby Boomers: 1946-1964 (54-72 years old)
  • Generation X: 1965-1980 (38-53 years old)
  • Millennials: 1981-1996 (22-37 years old)
  • Post-Millennials (Gen Z, iGen, etc.): 1997-Present (0-21 years old)

It’s important to note that you’ll find many variations on these dates. Some researchers claim that Millennials are born between 1985 – 1995, while others believe that Gen Z only includes those born after the year 2000.

As long as you understand the base range, a few years shouldn’t disrupt your marketing strategy. We prefer the Pew Research numbers because they take significant cultural events into account — which can shape marketing preferences.

All things considered, four main things shape a generation.

  • Parenting influence
  • Major events
  • Technology
  • Economics

Generational Segments + Mobile Marketing: A Marriage Made In Marketing Heaven

Mobile marketing for restaurants in New York City.

Mobile marketing plays a huge role in your restaurant’s success.

  • 5 billion people own smartphones.
  • Over 70% of web traffic comes from mobile.
  • 51% of customers say that they find brands via mobile searches.
  • People spend almost 70% of their media consumption time on smartphones.
  • And, to top it all off, 80% of all of these smartphone users are more likely to purchase your food if you have optimized your website and ordering portal for mobile.

Additionally, more people own smartphones than toothbrushes today!

It’s obvious that mobile marketing can be a critical pillar of growth.

What Does Mobile Marketing Involve?

  • Social media campaigns
  • Online ordering portals
  • Website design
  • Ad campaigns

Basically, we’re talking about anything restaurants use to reach an audience.

Let’s take a look at how each generation responds to mobile marketing.

The Silent Generation (The Traditionalists)

Note: We are including the G.I. generation in this demographic. For the purposes of marketing, this generation has very similar triggers. And, given that there are only 2 million people alive that are part of the Great Generation, including them in the Silent Generation demographic makes sense for your restaurant (from a marketing perspective.)

This generation is called “The Traditionalists” for a reason: they like traditional methods of advertising. That 75-year-old grandpa probably isn’t going to be too impressed with that flashy mobile ad. But, don’t underestimate this hardy generation.

All in all, people aged 65 years and older constitute one of the fastest growing smartphone demographics. Back in 2015, only 30% of traditionalists owned mobile devices. In 2018, that number grew to 46%.

So, how do you keep things traditional on such disruptive technology?

How To Market To The Silent Generation

  • Focus on price. Most Traditionalists lived through the Great Depression. Those core thrifty values have carried them through every trial in their lives. So, show them great deals they can appreciate.
  • Play with nostalgia. Nostalgia marketing is powerful. Converting emotions into revenue is an easy way to win over the Silent Generation. Let them know that the coffee is still hot, the eggs are still over-easy, and life is still simple.
  • TV ads still work. This post is about mobile marketing. But, did you know that The Silent Generation watches 51+ hours of TV every week? Linear ads dominate this generation.
  • Usability is key. Let’s be honest — this generation isn’t the most tech savvy generation out there. You want to make your ads easy-to-understand and navigate. Don’t use a ton of lingo. Also, don’t make them go through a bunch of online steps to order. Make the online ordering process as simple as possible.

Baby Boomers

Not marketing to Baby Boomers is a costly mistake. Not only do Baby Boomers outnumber Gen X’ers and Millennials, but they also spend more than both demographics. In fact, Baby Boomers own 70% of the wealth in the U.S. — and that’s expected to grow by $13 trillion in future years.

Many of us associate Baby Boomers with declining mental capacities and resistance to technology. Statistics say otherwise. 96% of Baby Boomers use search engines, and 70% of them regularly watch online content.

And, believe-it-or-not, Baby Boomers are exploratory eaters. So, they’re willing to try new restaurants and new foods. According to Technomic’s 2018 Generational Consumer Trend Report, 66% of Baby Boomers like to try new foods and restaurant experiences.

How To Market To Baby Boomers

  • Avoid hashtags. Around half of Baby Boomers have never used a hashtag before. Many of them probably don’t even know what they are!
  • Let them order online! We all know that Millennials love takeout. But, they’re not alone. 37% of takeout orders are Baby Boomer orders. Mobile takeout is a great way to keep Boomers hooked on your food.
  • Appeal to their thrifty side. Sure, Baby Boomers are ready and willing to try some unique dishes, but they also love a great deal. 55% of them think low prices are important.
  • Give them an anchor. 74% of Baby Boomers prefer to eat at a chain restaurant than anywhere else. That may seem terrifying for local restaurants. However, it’s not. The familiarity of food is a considerable driver for this generation. Find ways to connect your food to other foods they enjoy. Be creative, and weave familiarity into your menu selections. Most importantly, find a way to let them reorder meals seamlessly. Introducing a smart mobile ordering system that remembers their favorite meals is critical.
  • Use Facebook. When it comes to social media, Facebook absolutely dominates with the Baby Boomer generation. Only 20% of Baby Boomers have an Instagram account while 75% of them have an active Facebook account. Remember to feature your menu on your ordering portal AND Facebook. 57% of Baby Boomers look for menus online.

Generation X

Gen X has dominated restaurant marketing for the last twenty years. Members of this generation were still relatively young during the tech explosion in the 80s. They understand tech. Most importantly, Gen X is the most loyal group out of all the generations. That’s great news for restaurants!

How To Market To Generation X

  • You can have a higher ROI with Gen X. Here’s a secret about Gen Xers — they’re hard to win over. But, once you do, they’re with you for the long haul. Sure, 60% of Gen X members use a smartphone. However, they’re probably not going to fall for cliche marketing gimmicks. According to FONA, Gen X respects authenticity above all else. So, give yourself some room to win them over. You may have to spend more money marketing content to them. But, once you win them over, you keep them.
  • Keep it classic. Gen X is the least adventurous generation when it comes to food. They like the classics (pizza, pasta, burgers, macaroni & cheese) and they want to keep things simple. Like the Baby Boomers, Gen X loves ordering systems that remember their favorite orders. Additionally, they appreciate advertising campaigns that acknowledge their love for simple things.
  • Reward their loyalty. Again, Gen X is fiercely loyal. Loyalty programs and reward programs speak to this generation.


We all know about Millennials. If we had a quarter for every “how to market to Millennials” blog, we could quit our jobs and live out our days on sun-soaked beaches. Yes, millennial marketing is the future, and mobile is the name of the game.

How To Market To Millennials

  • Technology should be a pillar of your campaigns77% of Millennials believe that the right restaurant tech improves their experience. Online ordering systems, tablets, mobile phones, apps, and advanced POS systems are all things you should think about adding to your restaurant’s tech stack.
  • Mobile marketing is crazy important95% of Millennials own smartphones. Additionally, many of them use smartphones as their ONLY vehicle for browsing and consuming media. So, mobile marketing should target millennials first — simply due to their sheer numbers.
  • You have to rank on mobile. Before you do anything else, get your restaurant on Google My Business. Want to learn more? Check out our mobile local SEO guide for restaurants.
  • Go outside of Facebook. Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter dominate with the millennial generation. You want to be on these platforms and try to get as many people as possible talking about your food. Definitely, use hashtags for this generation. 68% of Millennials will look for input from friends and influencers before choosing a restaurant.
  • Think about advertising your quality. Millennials love organic, quality ingredients. 80% of them want to know how and where your food is grown. Leveraging this in your ads is a great way to score some bonus points with this audience.

Post-Millennials (Generation Z)

This is the Netflix and pizza generation. To say that Gen Z members like their smartphones is an understatement. Not only do 95% of them own one, but 25% of them owned one before they turned 10! They are used to being connected 24/7. In fact, post-millennials log an average of 10 hours A DAY online.

Wait! Gen Z is only 21 at best. Is it really worth marketing to them? Yes! Gen Z members are food fanatics.

In fact, 24% of them order food online 4 times a week!

How To Market To Post-Millennials

  • Give them mobile-optimized ordering systems. This demographic loves take-out. Also, post-millennials like ordering from their phones. But, here’s the problem. They will use 3rd party apps if you don’t give them the option of ordering from your customized restaurant portal. Don’t let 3rd party apps eat your profits: Focus on branding and building an online ordering system of your own. Over 70% of them prefer to use yours anyway.
  • Price isn’t their biggest concern54% of Gen Z will pay $5 more for takeout. Also, they’ll pay more for food they like, too. This is the most experimental generation. Members want unique, interesting foods. Leverage that.
  • Branding is huge. We all know that branding is a critical part of your marketing strategy. However, it’s especially important for Gen Z. According to Darren Seifer — food and beverage analyst at The NPD Group — “many people within that generation think of themselves as a brand, which plays into what types of products and services they seek out.” Try to center your mobile ads around your brand. Also, remember to use organic social media strategies to reach them.
  • Don’t try too hard to fit in. We know! Wendy’s has a great social media team. But, that doesn’t mean you should be posting memes 24/7. Try to fit in, sure. However, remember to stay authentic.
  • Personalize the ordering experience. 78% of post-millennials prefer offers that are personalized to their previous experiences. This means loyalty programs, smart online ordering systems that track orders, and POS integration that understands their ordering habits. Make sure that you personalize the experience for this demographic.

Here’s How 9Fold Can Help

Generational marketing is one of the easiest and safest methods of targeting. You can reach out to each group with the right mobile advertising campaigns, online ordering system configurations, and social media marketing campaigns without neglecting any one group.

What’s one thing all of these generations have in common? They love food, and they love ordering food online. Are you looking for the right system to support your mobile online ordering ecosystem? Contact us today to learn how to delight each of your generational customers!


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