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Catching up with the new foodies!

Akshay Shetty

There is a new wave of customers the hospitality industry need to focus on. Those born between 1997 and 2015, also called Generation Z will have a significant influence on the future of your business at least for another decade. But why are they important? Well, Gen Z, who currently flex $143 billion in spending now represents 25% of the total foodservice traffic. Research by The NPD Group states that Gen Z was responsible for 14.8 billion restaurant visits in 2018. Unlike their predecessors, they have a greater emphasis on the quality of food, its flavours and functions.

Born in times when the internet was no longer a luxury, they can be termed as true digital natives. Delivery orders by Gen Z amounted to $552 million in 2018. Yet only a portion of them is old enough to order their own food. As consumers, this generation is constantly checking online reviews and buying products based on recommendations from friends & family.

“Gen Zs can FaceTime their friends, text their moms, and order a pizza all at the same time,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor.

Big players like Taco Bell & Cauldron Ice Cream are catching up already with their innovative campaigns like “Taco Mode” partnered with rideshare app Lyft in which users could add a drive-thru pit stop to their trip. So how should your restaurant adapt to the needs of these massive set of new customers?


Marketing gimmicks of the past won’t help sell your product to this generation. Any information can be verified with a click. Your restaurant should have a transparent and authentic line of communication and must deliver on what is promised. Embrace your values and communicate them with your customers so they can connect with your restaurant as a brand. Having open kitchens where customers can see how their food is prepared right until the point of plating is an excellent way to start. Gen Z also prefers food made with local organic fruits & vegetables, which are more fresh and healthy with fewer additives.

Digital experience:

Born in a digital era, this generation is accustomed to fast services and convenience at their fingertips. Having a digital menu which is appealing but also provides nutritional information of cuisines will give you the edge. Gen Z uses more of Instagram, Snapchat and Youtube and less of Facebook. Utilise those channels to update them about your menu, events or discounts. Exploit food porn to your advantage on all social media platforms. It’s also crucial to be present on the most visited review websites like Tripadvisor as this generation prefers to read reviews online before a purchase. Additionally, engage your audience and be sure to respond to all the comments good and bad. Lastly, deliver what you post online.

Personalisation is the key:

Gen Z is highly conscious of what they consume. Providing them with the option of customising their meals could help you retain customers in the long run. It is natural for them to have a change in taste and preference occasionally as they are open to the idea of experimenting with new dishes. A study by UNiDAYS found that 48% of Gen Z try a new quick-service restaurant chain once a month. Providing options like ‘Create your own menu’ along with small portion sizes and reasonable prices could boost your sales. A flexible and adaptable restaurant will attract more customers.

Experience & value for money:

It’s all about the experience with this generation. They like to savour new flavours and save nevertheless. The study by UNiDAYS reports that 78% of respondents are willing to spend the majority of their budget on food. It also states that 93% of the students surveyed were more likely to try a restaurant which provided student discounts. Offering student discounts is a proven way to target the younger generation. Even though Gen Z is all about trying new cuisines, a pocket-friendly overwhelming experience will ensure that they visit your restaurant in the distant future. Loyalty grows over time, so embrace and nurture it because you only get one shot to make an impact.

Social Cause:

There is a growing awareness amongst this generation about social issues like sustainability, fair wages, improved working conditions, or responsible business practices. Support a social cause not for the sake of business but for something you strongly believe in. Say no to all things plastic and create a more waste-free environment in your restaurant. Share your social message and let your customers be part of your campaign. Build a community that will connect with your brand and let your brand be a voice for food for thought.

Change is inevitable! To stay relevant in the restaurant business; you will have to innovate according to the growing trends and demands of the customers. And right now, Gen Z are those customers.

Akshay Shetty