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Get ready ’cause here they come

Jan 22, 2020

By“they,” we mean Gen Z — the next contingent of customers to bedevil restaurant operators with their particular behaviors. Yet once understood, this generation’s needs can be turned to your restaurants’ favor.

Just who is and how old are Gen Z? According to the Pew Research Center,“1996 is a meaningful cutoff between Millennials and Gen Z for a number of reasons, including key political, economic and social factors that define the Millennial generation’s formative years.”

Those factors differ for the typical Gen Zer, who today is no older than 23. One factor is certainly economic: Few Gen Zers can afford to visit restaurants regularly. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore them until they’re older and wealthier. In fact, you probably won’t be able to. Estimates of the number of Gen Zs vary, from 61 million (outnumbering Gen X) to outnumbering Millennials (73 million). In short, there are many!

Gen Zs, the first generation to know the world digitally from birth, will have already experienced world cuisines and innovative flavors through social media like Instagram (or by visiting restaurants or travel to foreign lands) by the time they read your menu.

Pro Tip: Make sure your menu includes world flavors, even if they’re incorporated into more typical American-style offerings.

During a recent Paytronix Systems webinar, marketing content director Jessie Shulkasky cited a recent survey of Gen Z-aged people that showed 73% follow at least one “cool” brand on social media — likely on Instagram. Seventy-eight percent spend money on food and entertainment.

Pro Tip: Your Instagram feed should be timely, featuring recent cool pics of your restaurant’s food, environment and (preferably young) customers enjoying themselves.

Not surprisingly, cash-strapped Gen Zers are hungry for deals. Paytronix research shows 91% would eat at off-peak times if a discount was offered. Eating healthful food is important; 41% said they’d pay more for healthful food. Knowing the sources of ingredients is also important to the majority (55%) of Gen Z.

Pro Tip. Have flexible, deal-ready hours. Servers and cooks, if asked, should be able to explain the provenance of ingredients served in your restaurants.

The downside of Gen Zers is their notoriously short attention span, perhaps the result of spending hours scrolling their devices. To gain their attention, your message must be a rapid, digital-based and deal-directed.

At bottom, operators need to keep in mind who they will be dealing with as customers: “Social media, constant connectivity and on-demand entertainment and communication are innovations Millennials adapted to as they came of age. For those born after 1996, these are largely assumed.”

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