Does Gen Z really love those communal tables and wacky food mashups operators are investing money in? Maybe not so much after all. Here are four unexpected ways college students’ foodservice preferences have changed since 2015, according to new research in Technomic’s College & University Consumer Trend Report.
1. They’re getting tired of communal tables
Restaurant chains like Fazoli’s and Bojangles’ recently rolled out redesigns featuring communal tables, but will this help attract college-age consumers? Fewer than two-fifths (38%) of college and university students say they find communal tables appealing—down from almost half of students (47%) in 2015.
2. They’re not wild about unique food mashups
Just a quarter of students say new or unique ingredients or flavors are important attributes for the food or beverage items they purchase, making uniqueness the lowest-ranked attribute among these consumers of any measured by Technomic. Students prioritize taste, freshness and portion size over novelty.
3. Convenient locations are less important
With the rise of delivery and off-premise business, fewer college-age consumers are demanding convenient locations for foodservice establishments. Just over half of college students (53%) say a convenient location is important when it comes to food and beverage purchases, down from 59% in 2015.
4. Demand for customization is down
About half of college students (51%) say that the ability to substitute or omit ingredients in their food is important, a decrease from 57% of students two years ago. The uptick in build-your-own and do-it-yourself stations may be responsible for the overall drop in demand, according to the report, as these options reduce the need for substitution or omission requests.