Move over, millennials—Gen Z is aging into the dining-out scene, and these kids have some very different tastes and behaviors. The oldest Gen Zers were born in 1998, the same year as Google’s birth; this means they've grown up with endless information at their fingertips, making them more informed, inquisitive consumers. And it’s hard to miss how they’re joined at the hip to their smartphones and social media.
But this generation also holds some surprises that just may impact the way you do business. Read on to find out how.
Hyper taste buds
Gen Z boasts a higher proportion of "supertasters" than previous generations, said Dawn Aubrey, Director of Dining Services at University of Illinois, speaking on a panel during the recent Chef Culinary Conference at University of Massachusetts. Expect increased demand for ever-bolder, more varied and unusual flavors to please their palates.
Intense connection with food
For Gen Z eaters, “food is play, to be discovered and shared,” said June Jo Lee, VP at the Hartman Group, a research company that studies foodservice trends and insights. The internet and mobile technology have made it possible to “eat from the fringe”; to have access to a whole world of tastes, she said, enabling these young diners to become more engaged with food than their predecessors.
Show me, don’t tell me
Studies show that the attention span of the average Gen Zer is 50% shorter than that of a millennial, said Aubrey. Some operators already are making adjustments in training to accommodate Gen Z employees. Short, two- to five-minute YouTube sessions or step-by-step video vignettes are proving more effective than days-long on-site training seminars.
Customers with a cause
Gen Zers grew up caring about issues like animal welfare, sustainability and fair labor practices, and they are eager to make a difference in the world, said Aubrey. A restaurant that supports menu transparency and a culture of fairness is going to win even more points with this generation than it does with millennials.