5 ways to catch some ZZZs: Generation Z Trends

By Alec Frisch, VP of beverage, plate and container categories at GP PRO

In the past several years, the foodservice industry has undergone significant transformation. New technology has empowered increased transparency between restaurant and customer, our society has become more urban, faster paced and more sustainability minded, and customers continue to demand high-quality options at attainable prices. 

While the millennial helped usher in many of these lifestyle and food service trends, there's a new generation that's taking it one step further: Generation Z. This young audience (currently 13-23 years old) comprises 26 percent of the U.S. population, wields $44 billion in spending power and over $600 billion in spending influence. Generation Z is also characterized by distinct preferences: they prioritize value over price, experience and ambiance, cleanliness and safety, speed of service and accessibility, and sustainable sourcing and food packaging.

These preferences form a roadmap that food service operators can follow to appeal to Generation Z and unlock their wallets.

1. Good Value Beyond Price
About 89 percent of Gen Zs say excellent value through service is important, and they have high expectations on both speed of service and food quality. Operators must address these expectations by demonstrating value through their menu offerings and promotions.
Operators can increase Gen Z traffic by differentiating their menu offerings and offering limited time or seasonal items with online promotions to drive frequency and trips.

Experience and Ambiance
Two out of three Gen Zs say visiting restaurants is a form of entertainment. Modern store design, technology and innovative solutions can attract Gen Zs looking for more than just a meal. Overall experience is even driving more restaurants to consider Instagram and other social media platforms when designing their spaces to make them as shareable as possible.

Beyond ambiance, 90 percent of Gen Zs say order accuracy is important to their overall dining experience, and Gen Zs are twice as likely to mobile order than other generations. Implementing smart technology and solutions that improve Gen Z experience and blend seamlessly into a restaurant's design — and budget — will only help operators looking to increase their profits.

Cleanliness and Food Safety
Leading restaurant chains continue to be held accountable for the cleanliness of their restaurants and safety of their food. Even the most popular restaurant chains' reputations can be damaged if they are connected to foodborne illness or there are reports of rats falling from their ceiling. For Generation Z, restaurant cleanliness is the second most important attribute of restaurants, behind taste and flavor of food. 88 percent say kitchen/food prep is extremely or very important, and 81 percent say bathroom cleanliness is extremely or very important.

Restaurants can address this by implementing hygienic and food safety solutions that minimize the risk of cross-contamination. Clean restrooms, an upscale restroom image and fresh scent elevate the patron experience, as customers view restrooms as a reflection of other areas.

Food Anytime and Anywhere
Gen Zs in particular value speed when ordering food; 68 percent place the highest importance on speed of service for take-out food. And of the food ordered by Gen Zs at limited service restaurants, 40 percent is take-out. Restaurants must find ways to address Gen Z's need for speed while not sacrificing quality of food or service.

Restaurants can offer on-the-go eating stations for patron convenience and implement mobile apps, food kiosks and stations located throughout the restaurant to appeal to the 'anytime and  Anywhere' Gen Z preference. Disposable solutions that can maintain food integrity and quality can help QSR operators looking to offer on-the-go food in appealing, efficient packaging.

Socially conscious
Gen Zs are also highly attuned to social issues and prioritize sustainability, both in the sourcing of their food and how it is delivered. 1 in 3 Gen Z patrons expressed that brand items and ingredients are important to them. Prioritizing healthy, locally sourced food and menu diversification will appeal to Gen Z's desire for quality and choice.

Additionally, Gen Zs are cause oriented and make decisions based on their connection to a brand's mission and purpose. In fact, 74 percent of consumers believe it's important to be environmentally conscious and 66 percent of consumers believe it's important for restaurants to use environmentally friendly packaging. Restaurants can appeal to Gen Z's sustainable mindsets by providing eco-friendly food packaging and ensuring front and back of house operations are optimized for efficiency to eliminate waste.

The Bottom Line
Gen Zs are the patrons of the present and the future, and as this demographic gets older their buying power and influence will continue increase. Operators can be smart about addressing their preferences by making small changes first. By making smart investments in more sustainable, cost-effective packaging and innovative, easy-to-use front-of-house and back-of-house solutions, food service operators can provide the experience, customer service and dining options that will keep Gen Z coming back for more.

This article was originally published on FastCasual.com.
       5 ways to catch some ZZZs: Generation Z Trends