Quick serve operators need to continually replenish their supply of customers – this means constantly adapting the business to the tastes of each new generation.
Generation Z are today’s new customers and like all previous generations they need to eat – so how do you make your business an attractive proposition for today’s young diners? As we saw in the surprising surge for Labour in the British election in June, when Generation Z is motivated they will turn up in big numbers.
Who are Generation Z?
Generation Z (also known as Post-Millennials, Plurals, iGeneration, or the Homeland Generation in the USA) is the demographic group that has arrived after the Millennials. There are no precise dates for when the Gen Z cohort starts or ends but they are roughly the kids born between 1999 and 2012. They are today’s teenagers and younger. They are digital natives and have grown up in the internet age – comfortable with technology and their own social media platforms. Some commentators have suggested that growing up through the Great Recession has given the cohort a feeling of unsettlement and insecurity while others think they have entrepreneurial traits which – matched with their undoubted social conscience – may yet help save the planet!
Gen Z processes information faster than other generations thanks to apps like Snapchat and Vine. Their attention spans might be significantly lower than Millenials or Generation X-ers. They are less price-conscious. They can quickly and efficiently shift between work and play, with multiple distractions going on in the background. If a Gen Z’er knows they can learn something themselves through a more efficient, non-traditional route, like Youtube, you can bet they’ll take the opportunity. Gen Z seeks uniqueness in all walks of life.
Earning the Loyalty of Generation Z Diners
The headline traits of Generation Z that restaurant owners need to know are:
– they are adventurous when it comes to dining,
– they have deep concerns about social welfare and food provenance, and care deeply about the environment, and
– they are tuned in to using the latest digital technology in all their consumer interactions.
Generation Z is driving an evolution in restaurant menus, design and service models. Engaging these young customers will pay off in decades of loyalty.
“Every parent, employer, marketer, and neighbor needs to understand this new generation that is poised to change everything,” says Jason Dorsey, co-founder and chief strategy officer of the Center for Generational Kinetics, a firm that studies and provides insight on different generations.
“In generations, the changes and trends we’re seeing are actually rippling up instead of down,” he says. “That means that trends are now starting with teens and rippling up to the rest of us in a way that makes iGen [another term for Gen Z] the true trendsetters for everyone, including their grandparents. This explains why iGen’s grandparents use Facetime and may make the jump to Snapchat even if right now they think it is the most ridiculous thing ever.” If Dorsey is correct, restaurateurs will need to find ways to impress their young diners but not come across as trying too hard.
1 – Technology
Today, the must-have amenities are charging stations and Wi-Fi, two items important to the always plugged-in Gen Z. Online ordering capability runs a close third. Because they are tech natives, Gen Z is often cashless. That phenomenon has driven several restaurant chains, including Sweetgreen, to adopt a cashless payment model. Not only does it speed up service, it also supports the company’s 30 percent of digital orders.
But even Generation Z-ers need the human touch from time to time – while not being classed as much of a ‘snowflake’ group as Millenials, they still need to be treated with kindness!
“You might think Gen Z would be less concerned about the personal touch and more interested in technology, but service is incredibly important to this group,” says Robert Byrne, senior manager of consumer insights for Technomic. “If I’m only connected digitally all day, this might be the one time to connect with a person.”
2- Local and Transparent
Gen Z favour local, organic ingredients and global flavours, along with cage-free, grass-fed, humanely raised meats and plant protein options. Gen Z-ers want to know where the food was born and see how it’s made, meaning open kitchens and fast-casual assembly lines. Digital menus that list ingredient sources along with food allergy and special dietary labels are important. Some restaurants have taken transparency a step further, adding a sense of showmanship, such as the biscuit theatre at newer units of Bojangles’ where customers can watch team members knead fresh dough from a window behind the front counter. Irish chain Eddie Rockets is way ahead of the trend here with their open kitchens in full view to those seated at the counter and the slogan ‘cooked in sight, got to be right’. Domino’s tracking app, which follows a pizza from order to delivery, plugs into Gen Z’s desire for transparency and has helped the chain remain relevant. More than half of the brand’s sales come through digital channels, half of those via mobile ordering.
Surveys show that this generation value healthy, convenient, authentic and exciting food choices. They also favour snacking over full-blown meals, so smaller portions, such as 2-ounce grass-fed beef sliders in place of quarter-pounder burgers, and sharing plates, popular in chains like Nandos will be well received.
3 – Show your social conscience
Like millennials, Gen Z-ers tend to align with companies that behave responsibly. This ties in with their interest in animal welfare and other food provenance issues. Fundraising for local charities and involvement with local sports clubs can show your business has an ethical conscious.
4 – Use the right communications channel
Peer recommendations rule for this generation, but they aren’t using the same platforms that older groups favour. According to investment firm Piper Jaffray, which conducts a semi-annual survey of teenagers, they prefer Snapchat and Instagram to Twitter and Facebook. After watching the generation before them bare it all on Facebook, this younger audience prefers more private, anonymous vehicles for sharing. Facebook is for the over-thirties!
5 – Hey daddio, speak the hip lingo you square.
If restaurants want to connect with young people, they should work on communicating with them just as they do with older customers. You need to understand their slang but not overuse it.
Here’s a handy Tasty Eating guide to some of the phrases you’ll need to make yourself understood to teenagers. A word of warning though, incorrect use or even correct use by someone over 30 may lead to acute embarrassment for both sides – you might end up seeming a little ‘thirsty’.
To get excited, excitement.
“Get hyped!” or “This is hype.”
When something bad/embarrassing happens to you; same thing as saying, “take a loss.”
“She already rejected you twice, man. Just take the L.”
Describing fun or when it’s hoppin’.
“This party is lit.”
Angry or mad.
“Sorry I spilled ketchup, don’t get salty.”
Trying too hard to impress and looking desperate instead.
“It’s not working. You look too thirsty.”