Last weekend I was dragged into Manhattan to grab brunch with friends I hadn’t seen in months. We planned vaguely to meet in the Lower East Side for everyone else’s convenience (I’m the only one living in Brooklyn, about 35 minutes away) and made no reservations. Bad Idea.

As soon as I got to Two Hands, an Australian café that served light breakfast fare, I saw five or six groups of young, trendy customers waiting outside for a table. I proceeded to leave my name and phone number with the maître d’ before finding a seat outside with my fellow Millennials.

Brunch, as it turns out, is a very popular thing in the Lower East Side.

As I sat waiting patiently for my table, I heard other restaurant patrons deliberate alternate brunch options within a three-block radius. Although they admitted that the other options also featured similar wait times, there were four restaurants that were mentioned over and over again: Butcher’s Daughter, Jack’s Wife Freda, Egg Shop, and Seamore’s. In true Millennial fashion, I whipped my phone out and started doing research on these other establishments…on Instagram.

I quickly found that the commonalities between these restaurants didn’t lie in just the menu of food and beverage offerings. It clearly extended to the store brands and, in turn, storefronts as well. Sure, they all served some kind of avocado dish and offered organic, sustainable, locally-sourced food but their storefronts also looked uncannily alike.

Notice the following traits:

  • large windows that allow ample natural light

  • outdoor seating options

  • light touches of greenery/landscaping and;

  • clean white or pastel-colored furniture.

Now, that’s how you market your storefronts to Millennials.

When your storefront designs are done right, it often translates into free additional social media marketing. As I scrolled through Instagram, I noticed that top posts for each of the restaurants consisted of photos posted not just by the restaurant itself but also by past patrons sharing photos of their meals and brunch experiences. For a small independent restaurant with almost no advertising budget, this type of free and customer-endorsed marketing can make or break the business, especially if it’s located in a city with a dense concentration of high-earning Millennials.

Millennials (and Gen X’ers), after all, are spending the least money on food-at-home per capita across all income levels. In a recent study by the US Department of Agriculture, younger generations were found to increasingly prefer eating outside the home with reduced grocery store trips becoming more prominent as per capita income rises.

Source: Business Insider

Millennials, in particular, consume food in a restaurant or bar around 30 percent more than any other generation. With 2.3 percent of meals eaten at a restaurant or bar, this amounts to about one restaurant trip every other week for Millennials. That’s a large customer base, even for a small neighborhood like the Lower East Side.

As we continue to tackle the issue of retail vacancy and the rapid closure of small mom n’ pop businesses, we need to also understand that markets and customer preferences are changing rapidly. Whether we like it or not, the fourth economic shift has hit us – 1)commodities, 2) goods, 3) services, and 4) experiences. According to the first volume of ‘The Edge’, a comprehensive guide to modern real estate solutions by Cushman & Wakefield, “Our perception of economic value has progressed – we increasingly expect a more premium and differentiated economic offering. Our love affair with experiences is growing in every aspect of our lives. We seek out positive experiences daily…” So let’s take a cue from best-in-class hoteliers and let’s start with creative and unique storefront experiences for the Millennials who brunch.