What Gen X wants from foodservice

Representing for Gen X


generation x business people

As a card-carrying member of Generation X, those of us born between 1966 and 1976, I feel a little like Jan Brady in the middle of her “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” tirade. All I hear all day long is “Millennials, millennials, millennials!”

When the name of your demographic group also is the widely accepted symbol for a generic signature, it can be easy to feel invisible. And given the industry’s preoccupation with younger consumers—namely millennials and those whippersnappers, Gen Z—my 65 million fellow Xers and I might as well pack up our skeptical, nondistinct, self-reliant attitudes (according to Pew Research) and go (eat at) home.

Charts upon charts of data have practically ingrained in our minds millennials’ penchant for natural, high-quality ingredients and innovative flavors; it’s no longer any surprise that “the me, me, me generation,” as Time magazine dubbed millennials (born between 1980 and 1995), demands brands “tell them a story” before they’ll decide if that cup of fair-trade coffee is worthy of their tastebuds. And the research is rolling in now on Gen Z’s eco-conscious, vegetarian-ish, socialization-friendly lens for making foodservice choices. You’ll find more information on these groups—and how noncommercial operators are delivering on their desires—in the cover story.

Well, dear reader, I’m here to tell you that Gen X has our own list of demands. And with the help of our friends at  market research firm (and sister company) Technomic, I’ll share a little snippet with you here. According to Technomic’s data:

  • Gen X consumers are more likely to order food for delivery ... which is why I, personally, volunteer to be the guinea pig when Starbucks finally decides to test its delivery service in the suburbs of Chicago.
  • Location is important. A convenient proximity is more likely to make the difference to my demographic, which should mean I’m my corporate cafeteria director’s favorite customer.
  • Gen X enjoys the bubbly. Gen Xers are the most likely group to prefer fountain drinks. So before you bow to the cries from the “cool kids” to replace sodas with fancier, more natural soft drinks (or even worse, water), please remember those of us who still think a cola is the best pairing for a burger—even one made of grass-fed beef, lovingly raised on that quaint little farm in New Zealand.

There’s a movement afoot to break out of the traditional generational boundaries when profiling and targeting consumers. Technomic makes the case that consumer archetypes based on lifestyle and behavior are a truer measure than age of what drives consumers’ dining-out choices. If this catches on, it could be the just thing to break the sibling rivalry threatening to thwart intergenerational lunch dates everywhere. 

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