As a teenager, my foodservice experiences were limited to a local pizza joint, an occasional drive-thru, 7-Eleven nachos and the A&W where I worked. On the very rare occasion was I able to enjoy a full-service dining experience with my family.
By contrast, today’s budding Gen Z consumers have access to a vast variety of foodservice options, and they’re nearly fully immersed in the marketplace.
They’ve grown up with the restaurant industry—“foodservice natives” if you will—taking note of the increasing foodie-culture phenomena and accompanying their parents to new restaurant openings, trying new global mash-ups. They’re completely fluent in technology and have specific dietary and/or value-based dining needs and wants. In other words, they know a lot more, share a lot more and demand a lot more for their foodservice dollar. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this new demographic.
In this issue, Katie Ayoub delves into the subtle strategies operators are employing to attract this emerging consumer group. As part of our research on the subject, we wanted to include their voices here, and we didn’t have to look far to find them. You’ll see a handful of “somewhat willing” participants profiled here, our editorial staff’s kids among them, sharing their fresh opinions about their individual foodservice preferences.
What comes across from these anecdotal accounts is the need for value, variety, choice, aesthetics and convenience, and also, flavor. They’re a savvy bunch, these Gen Z’ers, swayed by the appeal of new foodservice experiences, but not taken in by slick, polished efforts to garner their business. They value transparency and honesty. They seek out meaningful connections with brands. Their flavor preferences are still evolving—after all, they’re young and still impressionable.
But their significance in foodservice is huge. As strategies continue to focus on Millennials, savvy brands are also now paying attention to Gen Z, understanding that this emerging demographic is decidedly different, with flavor and dining preferences that are uniquely their own. Brands that actively court Gen Z hold the keys to the future of foodservice.
Cathy Nash Holley