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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Like Everyone Else, S.F. Millennials Just Want to Eat Dinner

Posted By on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 4:05 PM

From left: Charles Phan (Slanted Door), Laurence Jossel (Nopa), Christophe Tassan (The Battery), and Andrew Freeman the moderator.
  • From left: Charles Phan (Slanted Door), Laurence Jossel (Nopa), Christophe Tassan (The Battery), and Andrew Freeman the moderator.

Generation Y, Millennial, Generation Me. If you were born anytime between 1980 and 2000, you're a self-obsessed, arrogant, entitled, smartphone-toting, anti-social, social media-driven jerk. Like me.

People love to categorize and stereotype others by when they were born. Occasionally, we'll have the snowflake that is considered an "old soul" who goes on about how they pine for the simpler days. Then we have the actual older souls who blame the youngins for everything from food trends to the Internet (think of the Taco Bell commercial with the two grandpas shaming millennials for enjoying their new breakfast line). The fact of the matter is, the world is constantly changing, and while generations can influence everything, even food, it's not always the case.

Local chefs Charles Phan (Slanted Door, Hard Water), Laurence Jossel (Nopa, Nopalito), and Master Sommelier Christophe Tassan (The Battery) spoke Monday about the effects of Gen Y they've experienced in their restaurants at Culintro's panel, "Cracking the Code on Millennial Dining." Andrew Freeman was the moderator.

What I gathered from the night was that millennial dining really isn't too big of a deal. Dietary restrictions were a thing long before we came along and with the recent gluten awareness, it's easier than ever for people in the restaurant industry to cater their consumers' needs.

Because San Francisco is a city on top of the latest trends, millennial dining could be a much smaller ordeal than in the middle of Kentucky or Montana.

Both Phan and Jossel agreed that they don't view millennials as a separate group of consumers.

Jossel says that he'll change the volume or genre of the music playing in his restaurant depending on the majority of his diners, "but we don't change the menu for it."

On the other hand, older generations and foreigners were less wary about allergies and restrictions.

"I come from a place where we didn't ask [clients] about [restrictions], we didn't care about these allergies," Tassan, a Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, says.

As a 21-year-old San Franciscan, I've come across people with all sorts of dietary restrictions, whether it be for religious reasons, lifestyle decisions, or physical intolerances. (I was also a pescetarian for a brief moment.) It can be agreed that it's a huge bummer when you can't share your delicious bacon pancake with your vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-intolerant friends, but at the end of the day, does it really matter? Enjoy that bacon pancake, they'll enjoy their soyrizo.

The three panelists agreed that technology and social media was the main divider between themselves and millennials.

"I don't know how to update my phone, [but] I know how to roast a chicken," Jossel jokes.

Phan mentions that he doesn't enjoy sharing his life on the world wide web but he will use social media to view statistics and share news on his restaurants, something he regrets not doing for his former porridge joint, Wo Hing General Store. He theorizes that because he relied little on social media, Phan lost the crowd with his home-style Cantonese concept.

They all agreed that cell phone photos in the restaurant and blogs hold little weight in their eyes. But what about the free marketing? Jossel mentions that he's thankful that Nopa does so well without advertisements, but one can assume that at least part of the restaurant's success could be accredited to the numerous Instagrams and Facebook posts, the new word of mouth.

"Take a picture with your memory, not your phone!" Tassan advises. Imagine the amount of times he's had to watch people take the same picture of a glass of wine at dinner.

"There are so many people creating blogs, I don't know if there are any reading them," Jossel says.

While this'll go in one ear and out the other, the fact that some of our food photos look less than appealing can't be ignored. (It's okay though, even Martha Stewart couldn't master the art.)

When it comes down to it, we're human and we need to eat.

"It's just food," Jossel says.

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Tiffany Do


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