Millennials hunger for dining adventure

People playing corn hole at Tucson’s Culinary Dropout. (Photo by Ashlyn Hertzberg/Arizona Sonora News)

Social media has revolutionized the dining-out experience, which in turn has influenced the food industry in what it serves up.

According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the average household spends $3,008 per year dining out. Millennials spend up to $900 more than the average amount on dining out, according to the report, and some want more than a cheeseburger and fries. They want to have fun.

And the food industry is sitting up and paying attention.

Stated in a report by Providence, Rhode Island’s John and Wales University, 45 percent of college students spend six to eight hours a day browsing through social media, often checking out the restaurant scene.

That’s why there has been an increase in restaurants using social media marketing platform to tell the fun they offer.

The trend began with the “Phone eats first” phase in social media, which has become a beneficial marketing tool.

Jody Chandler, an independent marketing manager in the Phoenix area, has noticed social media’s presence within all the restaurants she manages. Chandler says in order for restaurants to stand out, they must be able to build an extraordinary “Instagram-worthy” atmosphere throughout all parts of the customers’ dining experience.

Restaurants took notice of seeing their plates posted on social media and decided that social media was a route to expand their brand. And they have learned that Millennials want to be entertained. Thus, the movement to bring in games and more play around the dining table.

Fox Restaurants Concepts owns 11 restaurants in 12 states, including Culinary Dropout in Tucson. Company officials focus on creating an atmosphere that is not only about a place but also about the experience.

The main dining area at Tucson’s Culinary Dropout. Photo by: Ashlyn Hertzberg.

Ryan Justesen, assistant manager at Culinary Dropout, says Fox restaurants want to be different. Culinary offers customers a playground environment with games, such as cornhole, and live music. Patrons can watch sporting events on 32 televisions.

“Social media is undoubtedly a huge marketing platform now,” Justesen said. “To see that many people taking pictures of their food or to have the hashtag of Culinary on their social media platforms is really cool. It’s a compliment.”

These trends are rising in well-known cities, but the social media user is making a mark on small towns such as Bisbee in in Cochise County, southeast of Tucson.

Ana Borrajo, owner of Anacs Seasonal Kitchen in Bisbee, says “social media is helping enormously.”

Borrajo says costumers take pictures of her food, which promotes her business. Borrajo’s menu changes with each season. And this trend is noticed in social media.

“That’s what makes my restaurant stand up among other similar restaurants in this town. I want to create an experience with food. People who come to my restaurant are going to eat food they are not going to eat somewhere else,” Borrajo said.

Social media triggers restaurant owners to reach out and create new dining experiences.

Culinary Dropout’s Pretzels with fondue and Pork Belly Nachos.

“Experiences are happening every day at restaurants that are worthy of being passed from one consumer to another,” Chandler said. “Channels like Instagram and Facebook are going to help a restaurant leverage that opportunity.”

Ashlyn Hertzberg a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at

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