Perhaps the most important lessons one can learn in life are from failure—even better if you learn from the failures of others. The restaurant chain Applebee’s announced last week that it has “given up on millennials.” In response to brand and menu changes they made in the past year aimed at millennials, sales are down by 6% and poor customer experience has risen and as a result 130 of its restaurants will be closing by year end.
Their response is indicative of the problem: they weren’t really committed to a millennial audience. No one is saying that the restaurant business is easy. You are defined by what you’re willing to struggle for. Clearly, millennials did not make Applebee’s priority list of struggles.
And while millennials are an enigmatic market segment, one can hardly imagine a consumer brand writing off so publicly the largest and most influential market segment. It is short term thinking that guarantees long term failure. John Cywinski, Applebee’s brand president, age 54, should know better.
Millennials can smell inauthenticity from a thousand paces. Posers do not warrant re-tweets. It is always the case that companies that try to be all things to all people lose a distinctive identity.