How Gen Z is Shaping the Foodservice Industry – 3 Ways Restaurants Can Plan for the Post-Millennials
Although it feels like the Millennials have been shaping the foodservice industry, the next generation is already a force in food consumption. Generation Z—today’s children and teens (approximately age 2 – 19 aka: iGeneration) are raising the stakes on what Millennials have popularized, from ethnic fusion and more health-conscious eating habits to digital and social connectivity.
Infusing ethnic flavors into everyday cuisine is increasingly becoming the norm, not novelty, on the American menu. According to Mintel, 66% of ethnic food eaters who are parents say their children enjoy eating ethnic or international food. This trend may also be attributed to the fact that this generation is the most culturally diverse with 24% of Hispanic origin.
Gen Z isn’t just affecting the foodservice industry with their foodie flavor preferences, they are learning from their parents and taking a cue on more healthful, transparent eating.
“I don’t like burger fast food because their food tastes fake.”– Jonathan, age 12
“I like restaurants like Chipotle and Subway because it tastes like real food.” – Ashley, age 12
For example, the once before “Fast-food kings” are struggling as millennials and Gen Zers are overwhelmingly changing their preference to fast casual experiences and foods—a trend that chains like Chipotle saw coming years in advance and aligned their strategy accordingly. QSRs and fast casual restaurants alike recognize Gen Z’s love of convenience, value, quality, and selection when it comes to food; as a result, many QSR’s are working hard to shake off their reputation of being a “fast-food joint” by improving and promoting their good-for-you menu items and products supported by transparency messaging.
But wait, there’s more. Because Gen Z is the first truly digital generation, or “digital natives”, restaurants need to stay relevant with an authentic, digital and social presence beyond Facebook. Take a look at digital innovations in today’s restaurants:
- Texas Roadhouse’s kids menus now have a QR code printed on them that, when scanned, will download an application to their parents device, which comes with a built in game and coloring sheets that they can save, print, email, or upload to social media for their family and friends to see.
- Subway has a dedicated Subway Kids Appwhere you can download and play fun games that are relevant for today’s kids. For example, this month they are featuring the Disney PIXAR movie Inside Out with games as well as “Fresh Fit for Kids” activities that are updated every month.
- Chili’s now offers tabletop ordering tablets with built-in games for a small fee, providing an additional source of revenue and much-needed relief for weary parents.
Interestingly enough, there is no specific name or defined date range of Generation Z. There have been polls and contests to name this cohort of people, some of the contenders are “Plurals”, “iGen”, “Post-Millennials” and many more. Regardless of what they are destined to be named, they have a strong influence over family dining out decisions and much of this is due to their passion for all things culinary including exotic flavors that are more healthful and connecting with their digital native world.
The times, they are a-changin’!
Additional resources: Generation Z and the future of food