Taking a look at popular restaurants, it’s easy to see that some are more geared toward younger or older consumers. Whether it’s speedy delivery services or unique menu items (for instance, Instagram-ready drinks or foods), restaurants have a lot of work cut out for them when it comes to remaining relevant for diners of all ages. Thankfully, with a little bit of insight into what diners are looking for when eating out, it becomes a lot easier to plan a strategy.
Generation Z is an important demographic for restaurants. Since many Gen Zers have jobs but haven’t yet started a family, they’re likely to have more disposable income, and restaurants can capitalize on that. Additionally, because they are relatively new to dining out (at least compared to older generations), restaurants have the opportunity to hook them and make them loyal customers for a long time. In fact, Gen Zers say they’re dining out and ordering deliver more often than any other generation, according to Technomic’s 2018 Generational report. For restaurants who want to capture more Gen Z dollars, ensuring that a strong off-premise program is in place is key. As far as what they look for when choosing where to dine, they’re interested in
- A quick visit
- Whether a restaurant pays attention to social issues
- Aa menu that offers unique, craveable items they can’t make at home.
Operators can flex a little creativity to appeal to younger diners. Think global sauces and condiments, unique preparations and shareable options they can split with the whole table.
Much more than Gen X or baby boomers, millennials want restaurants that cater to the whole family. According to Technomic’s Generational report, 44% say they’d visit restaurants more often if they updated the kids’ menu with more elevated options, compared to 21% of Gen X and just 17% of boomers. Millennials are also more likely than other generations to take pictures of their food and post them on social media—31% say they do, compared to 23% of Gen Z, 9% of Gen X and 5% of baby boomers.
To appeal to millennials, restaurants should offer tastier kids’ menu options—think roasted turkey pot pie in addition to conventional chicken nuggets, for instance. There’s also opportunity to go a little over the top—for example, freak shakes (milkshakes piled high with toppings) made waves on Instagram. When it comes to millennials, anything sharable is a big win.
Fast food outpaces other segments for Gen X, with low prices being a key traffic and purchase driver. Because Gen Xers are the most likely to say that they struggle to make ends meet, according to Technomic’s Generational report, it can be beneficial to restaurants to offer combo meals as well as happy hour or lunch deals if possible.
As far as what kinds of foods they like, a majority of Gen X (62%) say they like trying new flavors of food from time to time, and some of their favorite cuisines include Chinese, Italian and Mexican. For operators who want to branch out from the expected dishes, they should look to regional cuisines from those countries to reel Gen X diners in.
Gen X might be the smallest of the four major generations, making up about 14% of the total population, but it’s important not to forget about what they want. After all, they have the highest levels of annual household expenditure overall, which means restaurants could gain a lot of revenue from this small generation.
In contrast, baby boomers are the largest generation in the United States, making up 24% of the total population and 31% of the adult population, according to the Generational report. The biggest traffic drivers for boomers include the taste and flavor of the food, food quality, cleanliness and order accuracy. In short, to appeal to baby boomers, restaurants should be confident that the atmosphere and service are top-notch. Additionally, baby boomers are generally less interested than other generations in new, innovative flavors and ingredients and ethnic foods. For these diners, offering comfort foods as well as elevated comfort food classics can draw the most appeal. Major crowd pleasers include nostalgic desserts as well as traditional meat-and-two-sides entrees such as meatloaf or roasted turkey breast with gravy, mashed potatoes and a vegetable.
Every diner that walks into a restaurant is looking for something different. In order for restaurants to remain competitive, it’s important to cater to those individual needs, whether it’s with robust off-premise offerings, unique flavors and presentations, great deals or comfort foods.
Turkey is a popular choice across generations. 55% of boomers eat turkey because they believe it’s healthier than other proteins. They choose foods with less fat, less sodium and lower cholesterol—criteria that turkey meets. Boomers enjoy its versatility and would particularly like to see menus feature more roast turkey breast dishes.
Gen Xers also want to see turkey served in more ways and in more establishments. Nearly half of this generation would like fast-casual restaurants to offer more of it. With options such as this Mediterranean Turkey Burger, fast-casual chains can easily adopt turkey, satisfying the 45% of Gen Xers who want menus to include more turkey burgers.
Meanwhile, millennials seek turkey in interesting applications. More than 40% would eat more of this protein if restaurants used it in creative ways. They’re especially interested in products like bacon, as half of them consume turkey bacon regularly. Meatballs are popular too, with 40% wanting more operations to offer turkey meatballs. Recipes like Singapore Meatballs and Zoodles can help satisfy millennial diners’ demand for unique flavors and nontraditional formats.
For more recipe inspiration to delight all generations, visit Butterball’s Culinary Center.
Source: Butterball Proprietary Research, 2017