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Special Reports

Top generational need states

The drivers getting consumers into chain restaurants differs among the ages.
Photograph courtesy of Krispy Kreme

Why do consumers visit the chains they do? Well, that answer varies by generation, according to Technomic. There are emotional drivers behind visitation, says Robert Byrne, senior manager of consumer insights for the researcher. The top ones, he says, are things like cravings and the desire for something simple that consumers know they will enjoy—the idea of familiarity. “Consumers can’t know they are going to enjoy something if they haven’t experienced it on some level,” Byrne says. “Understanding that gives a sense of how difficult it is for operators to convert guests.” If familiarity is part of the hook, he adds, how can operators use that to get trial from a consumer who is less engaged with their brand?  

More than just familiarity, though, consumers are looking for satisfaction. Certain brands, such as Cold Stone Creamery and Krispy Kreme, are named at the top across all generations. Why? “These brands deliver, so their satisfaction scores are always high,” Byrne says. Plus, they serve ice cream and other sweet treats—clear craving satisfiers. 

Likewise, all generations cite the need to connect as a top driver—but what that looks like differs for the generations. For younger consumers, chains such as Dave & Buster’s satisfy that need, as consumers go there to play games and have fun. Yard House and Miller’s Ale House, cited as top chains that satisfy the connection need state for older demographics, have lively, upbeat atmospheres, as well as a focus on the communal experience through menu options such as shared plates and beer tastings.  

But what about the need states that differ among generations? Data reveals patterns in the preferences of the different demographics, indicating why some brands are winning with specific sets of diners. 

Gen Z

Younger consumers are more driven by impulse, and the data shows that the idea of satisfying a craving is most widely identified among Gen Z consumers. “They’ve had less time to create those life-long habits [with brands] and perhaps they also have a little less frequency with having health as a top-of-mind consideration,” says Byrne.

Top need states

Need to satisfy 39%

Need to connect 15%

Need it simple 11%

I wanted to satisfy a craving 

Cold Stone Creamery 72%

Krispy Kreme 70%

Carvel Ice Cream 67%

This was a meal that allowed me to connect/socialize with others (e.g. friends, family, co-workers, etc.)  

Dave & Buster’s 71%

Seasons 52 49%

Maggiano’s Little Italy 41%

I just wanted a simple meal I knew I would enjoy  

Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen 22%

Subway 21%

Rubio’s Coastal Grill 21%

Millennials

This generation keeps health in mind more than their younger counterparts, as most have past the time of being able to eat whatever they want, whenever they want, putting health among their top need states. What’s noteworthy, though, says Byrne, is what they consider to be a “healthy” chain. Unlike concepts such as Subway that position themselves as healthy, these diners gravitate towards highly specialized concepts such as juice and smoothie chains. “That said, health also allows them to have cravings—it’s a delicate system of checks and balances,” says Byrne. 

Top need states

Need to satisfy 36%

Need to connect 13%

Need it healthy 12%

I wanted to satisfy a craving 

Cold Stone Creamery 70%

Krispy Kreme 69%

Cinnabon 68%

This was a meal that allowed me to connect/socialize with others (e.g. friends, family, co-workers, etc.) 

Dave & Buster’s 54%

Yard House 44%

Miller’s Ale House 37%

I wanted a healthy meal/snack (e.g. light, nutrient-rich, guilt-free, etc.) 

Jamba Juice 47%

Tropical Smoothie Cafe 42%

Zoes Kitchen 42%

Gen X

More than any other group, this demographic is looking for simple meals they know they will enjoy. “Look at the legacy names,” says Byrne. “Xers may be a little more nostalgic.”

Top need states

Need to satisfy 36%

Need to connect 14%

Need it simple 13%

I wanted to satisfy a craving 

Krispy Kreme 71%

Cinnabon 70%

Baskin-Robbins 69%

This was a meal that allowed me to connect/socialize with others (e.g. friends, family, co-workers, etc.) 

Twin Peaks 48%

Yard House 47%

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse 45%

I just wanted a simple meal I knew I would enjoy 

Denny’s 28%

Perkins Restaurants & Bakery 26%

Whataburger 26%

Boomers

Beer-centric concepts are clear drivers for this demographic. But cited brands like Brio, for example, cross the line between elegant and casual. “It’s the perfect marriage,” says Byrne. “They have tablecloths like fine dining but an unbelievable value proposition.” Plus, he says, a lot of these chains are still located in and around malls—which boomers still frequent.

Top need states

Need to satisfy 32%

Need it simple 19%

Need to connect 14%

I wanted to satisfy a craving 

Carvel Ice Cream 74%

Cold Stone Creamery 69%

Krispy Kreme 68%

I just wanted a simple meal I knew I would enjoy 

Potbelly Sandwich Shop 31%

Bob Evans 31%

Denny’s 31%

This was a meal that allowed me to connect/socialize with others (e.g. friends, family, co-workers, etc.) 

Yard House 45%

Miller’s Ale House 43%

Brio Tuscan Grille 43%

 

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