What Restaurants Can Expect from Gen Z

By now, you’ve likely encountered articles about millennial behavior, typically centered around what they like, what they don’t like, and what comes next.

Generational comparisons are a tradition as old as the concept of language, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable as a tool to learn more about your next wave of customers. Generation Z was born between 1996 and 2010, making them among your youngest customers, and who by 2026 will represent the majority of the consumer market. Noted for being tech and media savvy, knowing what your restaurant can expect from Generation Z can help prepare you for tomorrow’s consumer force today.

To Feel Seen

While it may seem like younger generations are always on their phones or looking at a screen, the members of Generation Z are less dazzled by the relative newness of the technology. In fact, statistics indicatethat with each subsequent generation, screen time goes down. Partially attributable to the growth of crowdsourcing and organizational tools, the members of Generation Z are comparably more socialthan other generations, operating more frequently in groups than individually. In comparison to Millennials, Generation Z has an equivalent amount of spending power, so courting that market can pay off big in the long run. 


Train Your Staff To Pay Attention

Staying in the moment is no easy feat, especially when distractions surround you. Train your restaurant staff on remaining mindful and presentwith younger guests, to help personalize their experience. Connecting with your patrons is always valuable, but can help increase tips for diligent waitstaff. The fact that the oldest members of Generation Z are still in their early 20’s means that they aren’t that far removed from having had service jobs themselves. They understand the stress of the situation.

Offer Off-Premise Dining

Currently, 86 percent of consumers engage in off-premise dining at least once per month. That number has continued to grow, and services like DoorDash or GrubHub only help that growth. Identified as the loneliest generation, Gen-Z is financially stable but risk-averse. This dynamic means that they may not dine out often, but that doesn’t mean they won’t eat in. And while Generation Z is statistically less likely to have children yet, they will, and studies indicate that Millennial off-premise dining trends are driven by parenthood. Planning for enhancing your off-premise dining options by partnering with delivery services or establishing ghost kitchens will help you prepare for the future. 


Make Sure Your Tech Is Up-to-Date

Growing up surrounded by tech means that for Gen-Z, checking the internet or your app is second nature. With 47 percent of Gen-Z using their smartphonesto make choices, making sure that your restaurant engages accordingly is vital to capturing that market. Why go out to a restaurant if they don’t have what you want on the menu? If you have an app or a website, make sure that you streamline and optimize your site to make it easy to find.

With just a few simple steps, you can help connect potential guests with your restaurant. You can use tools like Google My Business to help get people to your information as quickly as possible. Some waitlisting and reservation platforms have integrated with Reserve With Google, which makes the distance between search and getting in line that much shorter.


Market Online

Whether your restaurant has a website, social media is a great way to connect with Generation Z. For platforms like Facebook or Twitter, make sure that you post logistical changes whenever possible, whether that’s a shift in your menu or a change to your hours that day. In particular, Instagram has proven successfulin engaging buzz for customers who are hungry for something different. There are a few ways you can use that platform in your restaurant. 

Ethical Consumption

The members of Generation Z have grown up in an information-rich culture, and perhaps more than any other generation have a broader understanding of their impact on the world around them. Building on the interest shown by previous generations that translates to a more environmentally-friendly look at consumerism in general. Consumer studies indicate that 68% of the members of Gen-Z have made an eco-friendly purchase within the year. And studies have shown that Gen-Z is 69 percent more likelyto engage with companies that dedicated themselves to social causes. 


Healthy Choices

Looking at the demographics, Gen-Z has a higher statistical likelihood of turning to low-fat, health-conscious menu items. While menu items like the Impossible burger offer meatless alternatives to people interested in a healthier diet, they aren’t necessarily always the most robust food options. Make sure to offer wraps, snacks, and other lighter menu options to help supplement that interest. 


Add Variety

Make sure your menu has variety beyond just healthy and light choices. Generation Z came to age technologically connected to different cultures around the world, and that experience has manifested in an increased interest in authentic ethnic and street foods. Gen-Z is the largest consumer of specialty food items, which includes organic foods and ethnic meal items. Consider offering vegan or vegetarian menu optionsor sourcing your food, which are good ways to engage. Items like hummus or nachos offer light, snack oriented options that are a little different. 

The Kids Are Alright

When you look at the data, each generation becomes more attuned to technology, social media, and the ethics of business. And that’s no different for Gen-Z, who exhibit all of those aspects, as filtered through their relationship to smartphones and a fiscal responsibility shaped by the economic crash of the early 21st century. Knowing what to expect with Gen-Z isn’t just working with a consumer base who currently have a spending power of U.S. $29 – $143 billion dollars, but it looks forward at what comes next. Additionally, evidence suggests that Gen-Z actually influence the eating habits of older generations, which in turn helps you continue to build with different audiences.