Gen Z: The New Restaurant Customer

While some business owners might still think of Gen Z as middle schoolers with no pocket money to spend, the “Zoomer” generation is now in high school and college, and they’re coming into the restaurant consumer marketplace in a big way. This demographic now makes up a quarter of diners, with particular focus on the atmosphere, menu and marketing campaigns of the places they choose to frequent.

Zoomers’ eating habits affect their expectations about everything from ingredients to technology, and restaurants who want to attract Gen Z over their competition need to adapt accordingly. Let’s take a closer look at Gen Z’s habits, values and trends so restaurants can understand how to cater to this up-and-coming audience.

Food Trends

Their approach to dining out is changing just as much as their attention to what they eat.

  • Plant-based foods are on the rise as Gen Z grows up. With their environmentally-conscious social agenda, a lot of Zoomer consumers care that they’re spending their money somewhere green.
  • Fermented foods like kombucha are growing in popularity thanks to the health benefits. Gen Z is taking care of their bodies, and they’re willing to shell out a little more money for healthier foods.
  • 42% of Zoomers report wanting street food on the menu. A lot of Gen Z grew up with food trucks as a popular hot spot, and they still want it as an option when they go out to eat.
  • Chicken is big with them too, as the generation moves away from red meat and starts to look for more socially-conscious options. Nearly half of this generation reports that chicken is their most preferred protein when it comes to dinner.
  • With their on-the-go, mobile attitude, it’s not that big a surprise that Gen Z likes bowls of all kinds. From acai to burrito to poke, if you can put it in a bowl, this demographic is happy to take it to-go.
  • Pizza is a classic. It’s not organic, healthy or particularly trendy, but like every generation before them, they know you can’t go wrong with this staple delivery food.
  • Snacks. Last but certainly not least, Gen Z has thrown their weight behind making a meal out of sides, appetizers and tapas. This is because of their focus on connectivity and togetherness; rather than each buying one entree, Gen Zers overwhelmingly prefer to buy lots of small dishes and share with the table.

Eating Habits

As their habit of buying lots of small dishes suggests, Zoomers are proponents of togetherness and sharing to create a more interconnected experience. That’s not the only trend that they have major influence on, though. They also support…

  • Technology. Gen Z isn’t the only generation that likes to stay connected online, but technology has undeniably been a massive part of their social development. Mobile services at restaurants are more convenient and getting more prevalent; Gen Z is previewing the menu and ordering from their phones, splitting checks digitally and posting restaurant reviews in real-time.
  • Social media engagement. Restaurants’ social pages are extremely important to the Zoomer consumer. Many customers will decide if they want to support or avoid your restaurant based on your online presence alone. Be sure to curate an effective social media page by staying active, posting pictures of enticing dishes, reposting user-generated content and fostering customer engagement by connecting directly with your followers. Good social media equals better customer relationships and long-term loyalty.
  • Organic sustainability. Gen Z’s interest in greener restaurants also translates to caring about choosing organic ingredients from local sources. Transparency about food sources is important to Gen Z customers so they can understand what they’re putting in their bodies and make better, healthier choices.
  • Takeout and delivery. Online ordering is important, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it’s made face-to-face contact more dangerous. Delivery and curbside pickup are increasingly important for Gen Zers, so restaurants hoping to attract this customer base should invest in technology that has online ordering capabilities.

Gen Z are a generation that’s happy to experiment with new foods and creative trends, but cares about the impact on their bodies and the earth. As a restaurant trying to connect with this clientele, try different ideas that align with their values and find out what works best for your particular business. Generation Z is coming on the scene and ready to be your next, most loyal customers. Restaurants just have to learn to speak their language.

Tags: ,

Editor's Picks