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D’Angelo makes pitch for young diners

New menu, ad blitz target members of millennial generation

D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches, based in Dedham, has made over its menu with an eye toward attracting a younger customer base.

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches, based in Dedham, has made over its menu with an eye toward attracting a younger customer base.

D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches hopes punchier flavors, social media, and new menu items displayed on LCD screens will help increase its appeal to a generation intensely aware of restaurant trends.

The Dedham-based chain, which has about 170 locations in New England — including 104 in Massachusetts — has launched a makeover aimed at the so-called millennial generation, featuring a “Think with Your Stomach” advertising blitz.

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Millennials, those ages 18-34, “are folks that have grown up watching the Food Network,” said Pete Bell, D’Angelo’s chief marketing officer. “They’re more savvy. They’re particular about where they dine out. They want to try new things. They want to experiment.”

It makes sense for chain restaurants especially to focus on millennials, said Sara Monnette, director of consumer research at Chicago-based food industry research firm Technomic, because they make up an important segment of the dine-out population. According to a recent Technomic survey, the generation will account for $40 out of every $100 spent in restaurants within a decade.

“As you see more restaurants target this group, it’s because they’re growing, and they’re going to be spending a lot,” Monnette said.

The campaign uses ad taglines such as “friends don’t let friends eat lame sandwiches” and “microwaves kill sandwiches” that emphasize freshly made food.

Street teams will be dispatched to help customers produce “sandwich intervention” videos, addressing their concerns about a friend or family member’s sub-eating habits. The videos can be uploaded to a website and shared through social media. In return for their submissions, customers will receive coupons for sandwiches.

The menu includes eight new flavor “profiles” — including chipotle, Asian teriyaki, and Greek — and chicken is now available as the main ingredient in sandwiches.

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With help from the street teams, consumers can also offer “sandwich confessionals” about less-than-satisfying experiences they’ve had at a D’Angelo competitor like Subway or Panera Bread, the company said. Both of those restaurant chains are much larger than D’Angelo.

The new menu includes what D’Angelo calls eight new flavor “profiles” — including chipotle, Asian teriyaki, and Greek — and for the first time, chicken is available as the main ingredient in sandwiches. The chain is also offering a build-your-own option for cold sandwiches, and has installed LCD flatscreens on which menus and deals are displayed.

D’Angelo is one of many companies trying to lure millennials. For example, Macy’s on Oct. 18 unveiled plans to feature 13 new fashion lines the retailer said are geared toward the age group, including a skateboarding-and-arts-influenced young men’s clothing line called Ambiguous.

“Think with Your Stomach,” though simple, may hook millennials because it implies giving into cravings, something the generation of young adults has proved it can be persuaded to do, Monnette said.

“Although they’re health-conscious in a way, they tend to be more balanced about lifestyles,’’ she said. “They will indulge.”

Laura Finaldi can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @lauraefinaldi.
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