Where did Applebee’s go wrong with Millennials?
Throughout most segments of retail, courting a Millennial audience has become a top priority and is seen as a path to current and future profits. But one restaurant chain’s Millennial-targeted rebranding has brought nothing but shuttered locations.
Applebee’s announced the impending closure of 130 of its restaurants in the wake of a rebranding attempt that the chain is calling a failure, as discussed on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” The rebranding effort consisted of modernizing décor in restaurants and adding foodie-aimed entrees like chicken won-ton tacos to the menu. In the final analysis, the revamp proved ineffective in pulling in Millennials while simultaneously alienated the restaurant’s core older customer.
One of the difficulties that arises when discussing what Millennials, as a generation, want is that it’s a big age range. Despite tech-savviness generally greater than older generations, the group contains people from many different backgrounds leading different lives. For example, people tend to think of Millennials as skewing urban in their living habits, but the National Association of Realtors indicated last year that Millennials make up the biggest segment buying homes in the suburbs.
This has led some researchers to break the group out into micro-generations. For example, the term Xennia, used to label people born between 1977 and 1983, recently received renewed media attention. Xennials are said to have spent their early childhoods without technology, but began emailing and the like in their formative years.
But regardless of where the Millennial lines are drawn, it’s clear what Applebee’s was going for — turning a mainly suburban bar/restaurant into a hipper, younger destination.
Brand reinvention has in fact been successful for some retailers of late. Walmart — which was in the not-so-distant past thought of as anathema to Millennial trends — has managed to boost sales and generate positive press (although not without a few stumbles) through acquiring numerous Millennial-targeted startups.
Perhaps the difference is that, while Walmart’s challenge is getting a new generation of shoppers to buy, in-store or online, a restaurant like Applebee’s would need to become an attractive hangout.
- Applebee’s Gives Up On Millennials After Failed Rebranding Efforts – NPR
- Millennials are moving to the burbs – RetailWire
- Xennials versus other generations – Mashable
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Where did Applebee’s go wrong in its attempt to court Millennials? Will foodservice chains face bigger challenges than other retail segments in appealing to this generation?