One of the biggest challenges facing restaurant brands today is how to capture the attention of Generation Z diners and how to keep them coming back. Restaurant chains want to build brand loyalty with Gen Z and create lifelong customers. This column will provide a sketch of Gen Z using insights from our recently updated Generational Consumer Trend Report. As a whole, Generation Z is an extremely fast-paced, convenience-oriented group. They patronize quick-service restaurants more than any other segment, with a particular tendency to frequent specialized snack concepts such as Pinkberry, Ben & Jerry’s and Jamba Juice.
Gen Zers want convenient, fast grab-and-go options, and they tend to rely heavily on takeout and delivery service. In fact, they tie Millennials for highest usage of delivery of any generation, using it for 19% of all foodservice occasions. This heightened demand for delivery reflects both Gen Zers’ need for convenience as well as their familiarity with the technological platforms used for delivery orders, which are often mobile-based. Half of Gen Zers say they would be likely to use mobile ordering for a takeout order. Some chains like Wingstop and Burger King are now even experimenting with delivery orders placed via social media.
Three other key factors that Gen Zers in particular seek for foodservice occasions include low prices, customizable menu options and healthful menu options. The success of specialized QSR snack concepts among Gen Zers is likely driven by most of these factors; a frozen dessert or beverage option tends to be more affordable than an entree, and the customizable format allows diners to control the healthfulness as desired, whether they want to make the item gluten-free or lower in calories.
It’s also important to note the differences between younger Gen Zers (aged 13–17) and older Gen Zers (aged 18–23). Younger Gen Zers still live with their families, and their parents tend to make most of their dining decisions for them. Older Gen Zers are more independent — many of them are in college or have entered the workforce — and they often dine out with their friends. They are also open to a wider variety of cuisines than their younger counterparts, likely because they have already had a chance to sample more types of food independently and expand their palettes.
AS I SEE IT, as Generation Z grows older, they will be more adventurous and independent diners, and their spending power will grow. In turn, they will increasingly patronize full-service restaurants with innovative adult beverage programs for social occasions. However, leading restaurant brands looking to appeal to Gen Z right now should take note of their need for speed, convenience, low prices and customization. Operators don’t need to invest in big, elaborate dining spaces with a large price tag to please Gen Z. They need to invest in takeout, grab-and-go and frictionless payment methods in order to keep pace with this new generation.
Note: This content originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of Technomic’s Foodservice Digest newsletter