The youngest generation, Gen Z, may be close to Millennials in age, but their eating habits are revolutionizing the dining industry. As Gen Z is the most ethnically diverse generation — and the most passionate about racial equality — that we’ve seen, it’s no surprise they love ethnic cuisine. The authenticity of the cuisine is especially important, since Gen Z wants to truly experience the food of another culture. Experiences are important to this generation, which might be why they spend more money on dining experiences than any other category, including clothing, concerts and electronics.
For brands looking to appeal to these young consumers, make sure you’re providing fresh, natural food with a variety of options. Organic food, too, holds significantly more value to Gen Zers than to older generations. Many advocate for ingredient transparency, as they want to see the list and ensure that those ingredients are the most sustainable, healthy choices to put in their bodies. Melissa Abbott, VP of culinary insights at the Hartman Group, believes this behavior is correlated with Gen Z’s early technology use.
“Gen Z is the first generation to completely grow up in the digital age, so to them there is no question that can be unanswered,” said Abbott to Food Business News. “This is really affecting the food that they eat because they want to know where it’s from, how’s it grown, who made it.”
This generation enjoys experimenting with creative food fusions, flavors and health options. Additionally, many Gen Zers enjoy experimenting with new styles of diets. They test out different fads, such as gluten-free, vegetarian, paleo or dairy-free. The food exploration that Gen Z seeks provides experiential currency and there are few things Gen Z values more than shareable experiences. These youngsters want to be trendsetters within their group of friends, and a unique atmosphere or meal that makes dining an experience can elevate their social status.
Appealing to their desire for experiential currency gives restaurants opportunities to capitalize through social media. For example, offer a free cookie if customers tag the restaurant in an Instagram post of their meals. Gen Zers love posting their picture-perfect meals on social media, and the appeal of an incentive gives a brand free publicity.
However, not all meals need to be one-of-a-kind. Casual service dining makes up the majority of Gen Z’s food spending. Restaurants like Chipotle or Panera are popular with Gen Z because they’re accessible, tech-friendly and use clean ingredients. Not to mention, they’re fast. Gen Zers have an attention span of eight seconds, so patience is not an essential virtue to them. Plus, these chains offer the ability to make mobile purchases — a game-changer for this digitally-dependent group. Even self-service kiosks or tabletop tablets are sufficient runners-up.
For any food brands struggling to reach Generation Z, they have made their priorities clear: clean eating choices, unique dining experiences and mobile-first technology. Now, it’s time for marketers and brands to implement these changes before they are left in the wake of these influential consumers.