In recent reports on the way Millennials (those folks between 21 and roughly 32) think about wine, and beverages in general, a number of things stood. But the main lesson is pretty clear - they definitely don't think about food or drink the way generations before them and while they may settle into more predictable types of behavior as they age, the only thing that can be said with certainty now is that they want the new, seek change, and are not easy to impress or intimidate.
Their approach to wine is a good example; sommeliers and researchers alike state that the more obscure the type of grape varietal or region, the more interested they are. That's not to say that we're suddenly going to see a monumental spike in sales of Txakolina from Spain or Assyrtiko from Greece, but you can expect, if you put these wines on your list, to get a response and probably some orders from your younger legal drinking age guests. They might even become a house favorite; at the newly opened Painted Pin In Atlanta, an upscale bowling alley/entertainment/dining and drinking venue, wines like the above are moving as well as some Chardonnays and Cabernets.
The beer business has watched as craft brews continue to grow at double-digits, while Big Beer stays mostly flat or even loses pace, and some players are catching up by buying maturing craft brewers. Judging by the way Millennials approach beer, that's the smart move because for many of them, the old standbys aren't really interesting - they may be great beers for many occasions, but Millennials don't really seem to put much value in drinking what Dad and Mom drank without there being an interesting story behind those beverages. To them, all beers, all beverages, start off at the same place, with little brand halo attached.
There's another point worth mentioning, an important one for folks putting together lists and selling beverages every day - Millennials want to hear a story, something compelling and interesting, about what they are drinking. New experiences, bolstered by interesting tales of the people who are behind the brand, are important for them. That in some way helps explain why American whiskey is going through such a surge today, as the men and women behind the brands and the stories of this venerable spirits offers Millennials an attractive place to start a conversation, whether with the bar and restaurant staff or with each other.
And then there’s social media, about more soon, but it’s enough to say that the information revolution has changed how word gets out about beverages and brands and restaurants and bars just as it has for every other endeavor. When you make those menu changes, cutting back on your lengthy list of Napa Cabs that the 50-somethings can’t sustain any longer, think about how Millennials make their discoveries. That is, if you want them to be spending their money with you.