Why Are Millennial Barbecues so Expensive?

Why is a Millennial Barbecue so Expensive?


The average portion at a Millennial barbecue costs nearly twice as much as the average non-Millennial barbecue. Why?


Millennials are blending tradition with their own preference

Born between 1982 and 2000, Millennials are currently between the ages of 17 and 36. Many of them were among the first to spend significant time online growing up, and over 40% of them are now parents.


Moving into family life, many Millennials are repeating traditions of their parents, and this includes barbecuing. However, someone accustomed to a traditional country cookout might be lost at a Millennial barbecue.


A note on why we love barbecues

At CHOi Design, we love barbecues and have been working with Weber-Stephen for more than a decade to design barbecues for friends and families to enjoy together. Grilling season is coming up, so naturally it’s been a topic of conversation.


As we’ve considered how to continue to design products—including barbecues—that will best suit Millennials, we realized Millennial barbecue habits reveal a lot about their lifestyle choices that give us insight into how they make buying decisions.

It all comes down to the expensive Millennial barbecue. Get your tongs and apron ready, and let’s look at millennial barbecue trends and what they can teach us about Millennial lifestyle preferences.


Trends in Millennial Lifestyle


1. A portion at a millennial barbecue is nearly twice as expensive as the average.

According to data from the Rabobank BBQ Index, the average American BBQ for ten people will cost 69 dollars. The same millennial BBQ costs 119 dollars.


Rather than the cheap staples such as white bread and hot dogs, Millennials opt to pay almost four times as much per pound for higher quality breads such as organic whole wheat or gluten free options. Additionally, they opt to pay almost three times more per pound for beef and twice as much per pound for chicken.


Other popular indulgences include imported cheese, grass-fed and sustainably raised meat, vegetarian meat substitutes, local products, and organic dairy products.


Nick Fereday, Executive Director of Food and Consumer Trends at Rabobank, summarized millennial habits: “they’re more experimental in their food and beverage choices, health conscious (seeking fewer processed foods), they also appear to be willing to spend a greater share of their income on food.”


Exploring other trends in Millennial lifestyle can help us understand this trend, and help us to answer the question: Why is a Millennial Barbecue so Expensive?

2. A millennial values experiences over material things

Perhaps Millennials are spending more on their barbecues because they value experiences over things. Though it’s a trend with the general population in the United States, it appears to be especially common among Millennials.


An article by Forbes states that Millennials have become disillusioned with saving for retirement and planning far ahead in the future. Instead, they opt to live in the moment and invest in quality experiences with friends and loved ones.

This trend can also be seen in the amount of Millennials choosing to rent apartments in the city rather than buy homes. Opting for a lifestyle that allows them to move more frequently for work or fun, Millennials value their freedom and time above almost everything else.


Millennial women are also opting to have children much later in life than their parents. Brands that are paying attention to the life choices of Millennials are able to offer them products and services that are in alignment with these preferences.


Renting, having children later, and owning fewer material possessions all allow Millennials to have enriching experiences and live a life of freedom. 65 percent of Millennials are saving money to travel.


3. Millennials are health conscious and socially aware

We have already discusses how Millennials opt to purchase organic, local, and non-processed foods, but their awareness of social impact doesn’t end there. Millennials care about social responsibility across all categories of products and services.


According to this article by Forbes, nearly 70 percent of Millennials consider a company’s values an importing part of making purchasing decisions. This is about twenty percent higher than the average non-Millennial. Gen X consumers appear to be following Millennial trends, too.


Because Millennials have grown up with the ability to access nearly limitless information, they expect a company to be transparent about the way it conducts business and the social and environmental impact of the products it produces.


Companies are increasingly becoming aware of this and are creating their products accordingly.


The CEO of Naturevibe Botanicals describes today’s consumer:


"Today's consumers don't want to buy a product, they want to buy a lifestyle. People want to feel that whatever they are buying aligns with their personal values. That's why we're seeing a shift towards sustainable farming, farm-to-table, and organic botanical ingredients."


For companies wishing to capture a significant segment of the Millennial market—including finding their place at a Millennial barbecue—it’s likely highlighting their commitment to socially conscious values will be a part of their outreach campaign.



4. Technology is driving the experience economy

Technology is good for more than marketing to Millennials. App-based services that cater to the lifestyle they’re after include: Lyft, PostMates, Venmo, Spotify, and Thumbtack. 


Millennials understand that social media has a powerful influence in their lives. This Hubspot article states that they spend an average of 25 hours per week online. Though social media is often accused of driving people apart, they are using it to build community.


They’re also using it to investigate and research products before buying. Most Millennials—80 percent—use their phones to research a product before buying. This may include the company’s website, reading online reviews, and comparing prices of similar products.


Overall, Millennials like to research and make informed buying decisions, rather than impulsive ones, and technology allows them to make the decisions that are best for them rather than buying the same products their parents did.


A 1998 article from Harvard Business Review predicted the rise of an experience-based economy long before the Internet had a far reach, saying it was “the next step in what we call the progression of economic value.” And in the future, “leading edge companies—whether they sell to consumers or businesses—will find that the next competitive battleground lies in staging experiences.”


And Millennials have lived up to that prophecy. On top of their preference for spending money on experiences in their daily lives, over 65 percent of them are currently saving money to travel.


5. Millennials live primarily in metropolitan areas

Because Millennials are so focused on experiences, they want to spend less time commuting and are willing to pay more to live close to work. Today, more than 80% of Millennials live in metropolitan areas. What does this mean for barbecues?


This means that the image of the sprawling backyard barbecue is likely gone, and rooftop or patio barbecues are more common. Imagine gathering your closest friends and family on the rooftop of your apartment complex in Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis, or Austin. This scene is quickly becoming the standard American barbecue. 


Many apartment complexes are amping up their offering of amenities to accommodate Millennial preferences and attract tenants who are willing to pay higher rates for access to things like an onsite gym, a ground floor restaurant and/or coffee shop, live music, an artist in residence, and—of course—a rooftop barbecue with a common seating area and, perhaps, a fire pit.


Being able to host parties at your apartment complex is also a likely draw for Millennials. This allows them to provide a large gathering space that will still keep their personal space intact and allow them access to a venue at no extra cost on top of their monthly rent.


Alternatively, many Millennials might have a small barbecue grill on their deck or patio where they can grill meat and veggies for daily consumption.


So, why are Millennial barbecues so expensive?  


Millennials love experiences. They want to feel connected to their communities. They want to know the companies selling their products are socially conscious, and they care deeply about consuming only the healthiest products. The bottom line is they are willing to pay more to have a better experience.

Though saving and spending wisely is still important to them (one in six Millennials has already saved over $100,000) they are still willing to spend significantly more on products that fulfill their requirements of being highly socially conscious and driven by their values.

A barbecue is no exception. Millennials want to eat and serve their friends only the highest-quality food. They want the barbecue to be convenient for their friends to get to and from—perhaps they will meet at the most centrally located apartment rooftop that is only an inexpensive Lyft or Uber ride away for their friends.

If you attend a Millennial barbecue, expect high quality, local food, an urban setting, and more photos of the food on Instagram than you ever thought necessary. You can Venmo the host for your portion.


Erika Davis

Writer and Researcher at CHOi Design


Sources cited in this article: