While they only make up about 12-17 percent of the country’s population, Generation Zers are starting to impact the food and restaurant business as much as their millennial predecessors. With their desire for bold flavors, food fusions, and healthy, sustainable snacks, these up-and-comers belong to the most ethnically diverse generation America has ever seen and it shows in their food cravings and preferences.
Generation Z, which consists of those born in the mid-90s and early 2000s, is filled with young adults who want three primary things from the foods they eat. They want it healthy, sustainable, and ethnic.
Gen Z Food Preference: Healthy and Nutritious
Like the generation before them, Gen Zers want food that’s good for their body and supports their wellness goals. They’re over TV dinners and processed foods filled with chemicals and substances they can’t pronounce. Instead, these young adults want healthy, made-from-scratch meals that have high protein (chicken tends to be their favorite meat), healthy fats, and a full range of micronutrients (also known as vitamins and minerals to those from previous generations).
To tap into Generation Z’s craving for healthy food, serve things like fresh chicken, squash fries, and quinoa. Include a list of all ingredients, as ingredient transparency is quickly becoming a key factor to where and what these consumers eat.
Gen Z Food Preference: Clean and Sustainable
With such a focus on nutrition, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Generation Zers want clean and sustainable food choices. They don’t tolerate unethical agricultural farming practices and order food that’s labeled organic. Many from Generation Z have switched to plant-based diets because of the toll mass produced meat has on the Earth and the body.
Please the Gen Z palate by offering foods that are local, farm-fresh, and free-range. Since this generation, more so than others, like to snack, offer light meals filled with grass-fed, local beef or fresh seafood and add a salad topped with seasonal vegetables.
Gen Z Food Preference: Authentic and Ethnic
As the most culturally-diverse generation, today’s college-aged adults love ethnic cuisine and want it authentic. They have a more diverse palate than previous generations and aren’t fooled by “ethnic” foods that are more American than foreign (General Tso’s anyone).
Asian flavors are trending, so consider offering Gen Zers Asian fish, fried rice, and roasted asparagus. Create a sweet chili and ginger glaze or use hoisin to add exciting flavor.
Gen Z Food Preference: It’s More than a Meal
To really please Generation Z, restaurants need to do more than offer food; this generation wants an experience. The first generation born in the digital age, these young adults flock to places that offer digital integration. Sometimes called the iGeneration, they like to browse an online menu, check-in on Facebook, and leave a real-time online review.
Those restaurants who succeed with Gen Zers offer wifi and have a social media presence. Other digital trends include mobile ordering and table-top checkout.