The Grey Market: How to Appeal to Older Customers

Perhaps your bar or nightclub is packed with the younger crowd on weekends. But keep in mind that although Millennials (those born between 1982 and 2000) number 83 million, the Boomer crowd at 75 million is not far behind. Of course, the Traditionalists (born between 1900 and 1945) are a part of the mix of consumers of drinking age too! They are sometimes called The Greatest Generation or the Silent Generation. For a great summary of the events, icons, and values that drive each generation, check out this chart.

Many people have preconceptions about older adults, but as this great new AARP video illustrates, the “new old” is nothing at all like the Millennial view.

Boomers are snackers, according to recent studies. They consume 20% more ready-to-eat snack foods than Millennials. But do they drink and dance? Hell yes!

Savor some interesting and timely facts and trends:

  • Although younger drinkers have developed a penchant for wine and are driving an uptick in sales, Boomers are still consuming it…and, like a great red, their tastes have become more refined with age.
  • What else are Boomers toasting to? Not Old Fashioneds! They are driving sales of vodka and tequila. And all generations – young and not-so-young – seem to have developed a taste for craft beer.
  • Adults ages 55 to 64 outspend the average consumer in every major category and they clearly have wanderlust, as they spend a whopping $157 billion on travel each year.
  • Many Americans are opting to stay single after their 50s, after having been divorced or widowed. (They still date and go out with friends, however!)

You can capture your share of this vibrant market without alienating your current customers.

First, NEVER refer to them as seniors, old people, grey hairs, or active adults (even in private conversations). The average Boomer feels nine years younger than his chronological age, according to one study.

This group also grew up valuing customer service. Many of them worked as waiters or sales clerks in their youth. (Social media internships didn’t exist in that era!) They often judge places of business based on the level of personal service. Of course, your staff should be trained to be warm and welcoming to EVERY customer, but be especially aware that the bar may be set a little higher with this demographic.

Single and widowed Boomers and business travelers may be less fearful of going out alone. Bar staff should be trained to greet every solo guest warmly and make introductions (if appropriate). Many singles feel more comfortable dining at a bar than at a table for one, so be sure they know that you’re comfortable with that too.

Boomers, as vibrant as they are, have trouble seeing. It’s a simple fact. Even if they had 20/20 vision their whole lives, focus is an issue. If your bar is dimly lit and your menu typeface is small, be sure to have tiny flashlights and spare reading glasses or simple magnifiers on hand. You’ll wow your customer if you can help him see what you’re serving (which may result in bigger orders and larger tips).

Look for opportunities within that age group to host larger parties and events. Business networking groups, Chambers of Commerce, local singles groups, and special interest groups are often looking for places to gather their members. On a slow night, welcoming them into your establishment can boost your sales and allow a new group to experience your brand.

So remember, oldies can be goodies for your bottom line! Boomers are out and about these days and you need to be sure you’re capturing your share of their hearts, minds, and wallets!

NOTE: The author is 60 years old, frequents live music clubs, and eats dinner at bars at least three nights a week…she knows her stuff!

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