Trend: Generation Z—Today’s College Consumer

FE&S examines the explosive growth of Generation Z, the group primed to be the next big foodservice customer, possibly more so than Millennials. They continue to draw the attention of operators from all segments — and rightfully so. Many are already in college, with some younger  Gen Zers still prepping for higher education.

Gen Z femailsGen Z At-A-Glance

  • Born between 1993 and 2010
  • Estimated at 69 million people, this generation should surpass the numbers of previous generations, according to U.S. Census data. Pew Research expects Gen Z will hold a 40 percent share of the U.S. workforce by 2020.
  • Nicknames: Post-Millennials, Centennials, Digital Natives,
  • Neo-Digital Natives

Functional Eaters

Dubbed “Functional Eaters,” Gen Z skews a bit lower income-wise; they eat meals and snacks on the go, expect speed and accuracy from restaurants and tend to care more about convenience than the next
new food trend or nutrition. Source: Technomic

Tech Takeover

The first truly digital generation, Generation Z customers expect technology-friendly service in all restaurants, especially through online ordering and mobile payments, according to Andrew Freeman & Co.

Gen Z Consumer Preferences

  • Low prices
  • Menu variety and customization
  • Overall value
  • Convenience/all-day offerings
  • Technology/mobile and app ordering
  • Speedy service
  • Healthy and natural, "clean" foods
  • Vegetarian, vegan and other special diet-like offerings
  • Environmental and social
  • consciousness
  • Transparency
  • Source: Technomic

Gen Z and Snacking

Gen Zers and Millennials drive the snack-as-main-meal trend according to The NPD Group. Research shows a shift toward fresh foods and foods with a healthy halo, which may explain why fresh fruit and refrigerated yogurt rank among the top snack foods included in main meals.

As Gen Zs and Millennials age and move through different life stages their interest in consuming snack food at main meals is expected to continue.

Equipment Considerations:

  • Multi-use equipment (flattop grills and
  • planchas, combi ovens, flexible stovetops)
  • Plug-and-play
  • flexibility
  • Energy efficient pieces
  • Juice and beverage equipment
  • Wood- and gas-fired dome pizza ovens, used for breakfast, vegetables and other dishes

Menu Considerations

  • Customizable options
  • Bold flavors and textures
  • Authentic ethnic influences
  • All-day breakfast
  • Snack options such as pizza, baked goods, doughnuts and sandwiches
  • Vegetarian and vegan options

Design Considerations

  • Counter-style seating
  • Communal and social seating
  • Lounge seating
  • Charger plug-ins
  • Digital menu boards
  • Super bright, open kitchens and food prep lines
  • Composting and demonstration of waste consciousness
  • Natural materials and  reclaimed wood
  • Eclectic seating
  • Quirky and unique designs
  • Integrated online ordering and in-store technology
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