How Gen Z Is Changing The Restaurant Industry

A lot of markets are beginning to take Gen Z seriously as consumers. As they age out of their youth with no disposable income and become young adults with their own spending habits and consumer preferences like every generation before them, industries are starting to take them more seriously and understand their importance. As Zoomers’ expectations toward dining out change, restaurants have to adapt in ways they never have before in order to continually attract this generation as repeat customers.

It can be hard to grasp the needs of a new target audience. eatOS wants to provide a closer look at some of Gen Z’s consumer beliefs and values so that restaurateurs can get a handle on them—and start marketing successfully.

Speed & Convenience

Gen Z grew up with modern technology and an on-the-go mindset. They like instant gratification, and that naturally extends to their expectations for food service: Fast, convenient and customizable dining that brings them exactly what they’re craving and to their exact specifications.

This is one driver for restaurants’ increasing automation and reliance on technology. Devices like Self-Service Kiosks ensure that customers can get exactly what they want with much shorter wait times; modern restaurant technology increases table turn times and order accuracy while simultaneously bolstering average check size and customer satisfaction.

Gen Z is just as reliant on technology as one would expect. They enjoy the convenience of third party delivery, which is why it’s so important for restaurants to develop online ordering streams. Smartphones’ increased capabilities means that many Zoomers order on the go or want to pay with touch-free transaction systems, even when they dine in. It’s important that restaurants can meet these expectations. However businesses should focus on social media just as much as the functional aspect of their online presence: Strong engagement translates to better in-person loyalty, and many Zoomers will skip out on trying a new restaurant if their social media is sparse and uncompelling. Never underestimate the power of a clean Instagram page.

Affordable Togetherness

Gen Z is bringing back the family dinner in a new way by sharing meals with their chosen family instead. This is tied into their preference for fast-casual dining; they want to be able to hang out and enjoy a relaxed meal with friends, so restaurants need to cater to the atmosphere they want rather than Gen Z going into full -service restaurants and adapting to the ambience that the restaurant sets. The tables have turned. Gen Z is setting the trends and brands are expected to align, not the other way around.

As a result, Gen Z has a tendency to adapt brands into part of their image; brands are a lifestyle choice, not just a financial decision anymore. Because their purchases are increasingly part of their “personal brand,” Gen Z is willing to pay a bit more for healthier dining options, but overall they like their meals cheap. Affordability is big with this generation, because they grew up in a post-recession America that never really got its “thriving” economy back. They’re habitually more careful with money, so menu options need to be cheap to attract Zoomers to you over your competitors.

Despite this, or because of it, their standards are higher than ever. If they’re going to spend money on you then quality had better live up to expectations. Simultaneously, Gen Z is more likely to “graze” than sit down for a full meal, which ultimately balances out: They would rather buy lots of sides and reduced portions so the whole table can share everything with each other, so businesses can lower the prices of each individual item since they’re serving smaller-sized dishes. Everybody wins.

Intrigue

Restaurants are rising to the challenge of new, experiential customer service designs because as long as they’re meeting Gen Z’s core values, there’s room for owners to get a little creative. Moreover, it’s smart to try out new restaurant concepts now and then: Gen Z grew up on instability. With a recession, a deepening political divide and the past two decades of rapidly-changing tech, this generation is used to new inventions every other day. They’re used to constant newness, so restaurants need to win their attention again and again and again.

Gen Z isn’t as loyal as past generations—though that in part can be attributed to their relative youth, how they’re still discovering what they like, and settling into adult routines and preferences. Gen Z likes to be first on new trends and discover the next cool idea. They’ve also grown up in a period of increased globalization so trying new foods is high on their list of experimental ideas. More than other generations, they’re willing to try cuisines they’ve never had before. Interesting flavors are just as important as organic ingredients and healthy living; in fact, authenticity and realness can be more important than other considerations sometimes. They prefer that businesses are transparent; food quality needs to match up with the hype, and Gen Z likes authentic experiences especially when they’re trying something new.

Social Consciousness

Just because they believe in convenience and cheap menu options doesn’t make this generation selfish. In fact, they place just as much emphasis on respectable business practices as they do on self-gratification. As much as they enjoy experimenting with new dishes they’ve never tried before, having organic and ethically-sourced ingredients matters just as much to them.

Overall, though, environmentalism was Millennials’ social cause. Increasingly, Gen Z champions better working conditions and business practices in general. In part because they also work service industry jobs, Zoomers care that their money goes someplace that pays fair wages, hires inclusively and diversely, and respects their employees. Gen Z cares about dining together because of an increased focus on community amongst themselves; it makes sense they want to see their businesses extend the same care to the community at large.

Gen Z is grown up and bursting into the marketplace with a bang. With their increased devotion to the global community, technology, affordability, convenience and social responsibility, restaurateurs have their work cut out for them finding marketing techniques that will be uniquely appealing to this new generation of consumers. One thing is for sure, Generation Z is permanently changing the restaurant industry—the only real question remaining is what trend they’ll invent next.

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