Restaurants with Strong Brand Identities Captivate Gen Z

Born between 1997 and 2012, Generation Z is a demographic known for being tech-savvy and socially conscious. As one of the largest generations of consumers, they continually influence the ways restaurants innovate, and there are identifiable characteristics that differentiate Gen Z consumers from their older counterparts. Here are the biggest takeaways for how restaurants can engage with Gen Z in ways that create a competitive advantage. 

Create a Strong Online Presence 

While platforms like Instagram and TikTok can generate buzz for a restaurant, many Gen Z customers are still looking to traditional platforms like Yelp and Google Maps when choosing a restaurant to visit; therefore, marketing strategies should focus on creating a strong online presence for the overall brand. Restaurants should keep menus, hours, and branding consistent across multiple platforms to increase visibility amongst a wider range of customers while avoiding confusion. Then, utilizing social media to differentiate your brand and showcase your identity to customers can help your brand stand out.

Be Authentic

As you play into trends, ensure that content is created in a way that amplifies brand values while maintaining authenticity. Avoid simply churning out content for the sake of building presence on an app. Instead, showcase genuine behind-the-scenes footage, staff interactions, or even customer reactions. Interactive content such as polls or competitions can also increase engagement and create a sense of community. By creating authentic content that resonates with your target audience, you’ll increase your chance of establishing a loyal customer base and attracting new customers. 

Optimize Mobile Ordering

Creating and executing a convenient mobile ordering experience for your customers is extremely important, and it will keep them coming back for ease of use and accessibility. Gen Z in particular, as a tech-savvy group, are experts when it comes to navigating mobile ordering experiences. If you’re not quite ready to provide a first-party mobile ordering experience, embracing the third-party options is another route. According to the National Restaurant Industry’s 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry, 85 percent of Gen Zers use third-party platforms like DoorDash, Grubhub, or UberEats. These platforms allow restaurants to reach a wider audience and offer delivery services without having to invest in their own costly delivery infrastructure. Dynamic pricing on these platforms might be necessary to combat some of the lost revenue due to fees.

While it’s important to consider expanding to third-party platforms, there are other motivating factors that Gen Zers might consider over the convenience of mobile ordering. If a restaurant already has their own delivery system, one way to incentivize customers away from third-party options is to offer lower fees to customers who order directly on your restaurant’s website. Another is to add convenience like saved orders, saved payment methods or Apple Pay, loyalty programs, and personalized offers or perks.

Implement a Loyalty Program

Offering rewards like free food or a special perk for signing onto a loyalty program can motivate customers to try out a new restaurant and create a positive first experience. Loyalty rewards don’t have to include discounts and coupons anymore. Non-discount or experiential rewards are more impactful to the customer’s impression of your brand and they help the bottom line without decreasing margins.

Ongoing rewards or loyalty programs can additionally encourage repeat business and build loyalty. These programs usually involve the customer earning points or rewards for every purchase made from the restaurant, and the accumulation of these points can lead to free meals, special perks, or exclusive guest experiences. Reward systems can also be integrated into an app, which can make it easier for customers to earn and redeem rewards while also allowing restaurants to collect valuable data on customer behavior. Overall, loyalty programs are a win-win for both the Gen Zers and restaurants, fostering a sense of community and helping to drive sales.

Engage in Corporate Social Responsibility

According to Fuse Marketing, 84 percent of Gen Z would be more likely to purchase from a brand that gives back. Restaurants can showcase their values by participating in charitable events, sourcing sustainable ingredients, or reducing their carbon footprint. It’s important to not just talk about corporate responsibility but to show it in action. Examples include programs like Too Good to Go, to decrease food waste, CORE, to help children of restaurant employees, and GiftAMeal, to support local food banks in a free and interactive way for customers. Another often overlooked aspect of social responsibility is employee satisfaction. Gen Z values businesses that treat employees well and is thus more likely to support restaurants where employees are happy and engaged. Restaurants can create an enjoyable work environment by offering benefits such as flexible schedules, employee discounts, and career advancement and volunteer opportunities. 

Engaging Gen Z customers requires a strategic approach that factors in their distinctive values, tastes, and behaviors. Restaurants that develop engaging social media content and offer easily accessible and attractive reward systems will create deep relationships with Gen Z customers. It is also essential to prioritize corporate social responsibility to establish a positive brand image that resonates with Gen Z’s preference for purpose-driven business practices. By recognizing and adapting to Gen Z’s unique needs, restaurants will set themselves up to succeed with this increasingly important generation of customers.