4 ways to keep foodservice relevant for Gen Z

Gen Z students

From Café Bustelo.

There’s a lot of buzz about what millennials look for in foodservice today—avocado toast, anyone?—but when it comes to Gen Zers (born between 1993 and 2003, ages 13-23), operators may need a little more help to figure out how to get them in the door.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, Gen Z makes up 15% of the population, and many are entering the workforce, which means more money to spend on foodservice. Capitalizing on that opportunity is key for operators. Older Gen Zers visit restaurants more often than other generations, and as they gain more independence and spending power, they’ll likely utilize foodservice even more, according to Technomic’s 2016 Generational Consumer Trend Report.

Appealing to Gen Z, thankfully, isn’t a tough code to crack. Check out these tips for increasing Gen Z interest.

Focus on customization

Customization is key for Gen Z. When choosing a place to eat, 50% say the ability to customize the meal, including having the option to change portion size, is important. If your menu is more “one size fits all” than “have it your way,” it might be time to rework some of the offerings. You don’t have to come up with new dishes, either—offering swappable sides or snack-sized portions is a great place to start.

Utilize technology

Gen Z and millennials were brought up with technology, and many expect it to cross over into various aspects of life. Introducing online ordering, prepay options, cashless point of sale and touchscreen menus, for instance, are all ideal tech additions for your operation. Tech features make dining more convenient, and when your customers are busy and on the go, that convenience is key.

Participate in trends

Hitting again on the customization aspect, mini coffee bars play into the desire to customize drink orders. Offering flavored syrups and specialty milks is a surefire way to appeal to Gen Z’s coffee preferences, while boosting ticket average thanks to the premium ingredients.

Micro-restaurants are also on the rise—think food trucks and food hall-type eateries. Nineteen percent of Gen Zers have eaten at a food truck at least once in the past month, according to the Technomic report, and these smaller concepts give operators the chance to try out new and interesting flavors without dedicating an entire menu to a theme.

Offer unique flavors and ethnic options

According to the report, 31% of Gen Zers say they’d like restaurants to offer more ethnic foods and beverages, and 30% also say they prefer to visit restaurants that offer dishes with new and innovative flavors and ingredients. Additionally, 59% of Gen Zers say they like trying new flavors of food from time to time. Operators stand to benefit from offering a good mix of both comfort food favorites as well as new and exciting ingredients and flavors.

Technomic’s MenuMonitor shows that in the past year, some of the fastest-growing ingredients in main dishes and entrees are gochujang, cucumber dressing, graham cracker, bone marrow, fig spread, kumquat and poke. These unique ingredients offer Gen Zers new and interesting options for meals, and offer operators the chance to try out ethnic flavors and unusual ingredients, keeping their menus fresh.

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