Guest Blog | Togather Restaurant Consulting
Gen Z is the first generation to have been raised entirely in the digital age, and there are numerous ways they are changing the world around them because of it. They’re buying more vegetarian and plant-based products, they’re eating local and fresh ingredients, and they’re ordering everything off of their phones. While we still have quite a few years before Gen Z generates their own buying power, we should look at their trending needs now so we can better understand this emerging market.
Let’s talk about what it means to be raised in the late 90s and early 2000s. These people recall 9/11, the wars in the Middle East, and the economic crash of 2008 as their earliest childhood memories. Whether through reports on climate change, economic crises, or pandemic response, the people in this group have been raised in a tumultuous time. They are looking to change how humans function in society. These young people have hope in their eyes for a better future, and this affects how they interact with the world around them.
Gen Z is more likely than any other generation to eat a vegetarian meal. Why is that? Statistics have shown that the meat industry is distressing the environment and incredibly expensive. Both the farming of meat and its transport have impacted this. Being raised in an era of political documentaries and environmental awareness, this generation is keenly cognizant of their personal consumption and its impact on the world. Therefore, they’re more willing to replace a meal with a vegetarian option if it means reducing their carbon footprint even the barest amount. So, let’s look at making tastier meatless meals. Great strides have been made in the meat-replacement market. We now have meat-replacement products that bleed hemoglobin-adjacent proteins so that you’re not losing that bit of flavor when you’re chowing down on a plant-based burger. Products like this are selling very well. Having these options excites Gen Z, and they’re willing to dole out an extra $2 for a meat replacement product. Small efforts can be made to integrate these products into your menu, all while easing the minds of a generation that cares about the impact of their dietary habits.
Eating locally is also at the forefront of their minds. Gen Z is 75% more likely to eat from a restaurant that advertises locally-sourced ingredients (Source). There are a lot of factors for this, but the most glaring ones are the impact that cross-country distribution has on the environment, and the fragility of that supply chain became self-evident during the Covid-19 pandemic. From a young age, these people have had fuel emissions and carbon footprints on the brain, so it makes sense that they would be hyper-aware of how far their food traveled to get to them. Thankfully, food distributors have made it easier for us to shop locally – even large distributors can connect you with regional goods.
Being raised completely submersed in technology has also impacted Gen Z. Many were toddlers when the first iPhones came out, and now their phones are permanently in their pockets. They don’t go anywhere without them, and the rest of the world isn’t too far behind. This has made dining out a completely different experience than we ever anticipated. Today, QR codes are quite common in restaurants and Gen Z has been the number one fan of this ordering system as of late. While some people prefer a more traditional approach to dining out, this generation is likely to opt for this human-less route of food ordering and delivery. Some restaurants are even looking at automatic food runners to cut down on labor as well.
With this understanding of Generation Z, let’s take a look at implementing these changes in your business. We don’t need to anticipate Gen Z dominating the market for a few years, as most of their buying power is sourced from parents and guardians. We won’t see major shifts in our market until they transition fully into independent life. Slating gradual changes to accommodate them, starting now, will put your business a step ahead of the times. Adding vegetarian meals to your menu, sourcing your ingredients locally, and using the labor-saving advantage of QR code ordering are great ways to draw the eye of this generation. Though young, Gen Z spent $111 billion on eating out in 2021 (Source), and that’s without factoring in alcohol sales. This market is only going to become more viable as Gen Z continues to grow – and we should be prepared to tap into it. | Kate Ratledge, Togather Restaurant Consulting