Generation Z – Who Are They And Why Do They Matter To Restaurants?

All marketers seem to have one thing in common – an unshakeable faith in the value of segmentation. We love to break people into groups by age, gender, food preferences and a host of other criteria. Every valued customer is also a valued statistic.

With that in mind, it’s time to start thinking about Generation Z, the hottest new buzzword in demographics. Defining the cutoff for membership is still debated, but most can agree it refers to those born in the late 90’s to the mid-2000’s. The most technologically literate youths of all time have been called “millennials on steroids” by author Dan Schwabel, spending 6-8 hours per day online on average. They love Snapchat and Instagram, the home of influencers, and just last year, Nielsen crowned them the largest generational cohort in the U.S. So, what does this mean for restaurants?

Gen Z has enormous buying power – estimated at up to $143 billion. Considering they are not yet at the legal drinking age, have no long-term responsibilities yet and spend more on food than fashion, they represent a huge opportunity for restaurateurs. Recent evidence has indicated that 85% of children have influence in a family fast food decision, while older Gen Z-ers favor microtrends and popular LTOs, with teens eager to try new things and subsequently show their friends. Gen Z enjoys eating out and is willing to pay more for foods they believe are healthy.

boy, child, drink, gen z

Despite their purchasing clout, Gen Z is known to be fiscally conscious – children of the greatest recession in U.S. history, they have witnessed the shrinking of the middle class and have mature concerns – obtaining a degree, getting employed and being financially secure. Figuring out how to target them is a challenge facing every fast casual and QSR in the market today.

So, how do you do it?

Brand authenticity is now hugely important. Both millennials and Gen Z have lost a significant amount of trust in businesses – 48% don’t believe businesses behave ethically, while the majority think leaders’ only motivation is money. Brands with an ethical agenda that treat their customers, suppliers, and employees right will be popular with Gen Z.

The kids of Gen Z, like millennials, are adventurous diners. They love fresh, natural and organic foods, and are willing to try new flavors, fads and dietary choices like veganism and paleo. Tech-friendly restaurants with lots of options, fresh ingredients and visually pleasing fare like sweetgreen have hit the nail on the head.

What about marketing? According to a recent study, only 5% of Gen Z plan their meals, which means that push notifications, location-based messages, and Instagram stories are important to sway the dining decision of the remaining majority. You only have a few seconds to grab their attention on social, however – make it count.

Exceptional service and customer support are vital to capturing Gen Z’s attention. They hate slow apps or websites, read (and leave) reviews, and will hang up if you don’t answer phones promptly.

In short, capturing the attention of Gen Z will be on the top of every restaurateur’s agenda in the next few years, as the new kids on the block grow up and gain disposable income. Getting to them first could be the difference between huge success and lukewarm revenue figures for your restaurant.

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Joe Gorman

Joe Gorman

Joe Gorman works on the B2B Marketing team at LevelUp. Settling down in Boston after a childhood spent in Ireland, Joe enjoys long walks to the fridge, flat whites and complaining about how everything is better at home. Sláinte!

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