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Serving Generation Z: How Restaurants Can Get Ready

Serving Generation Z: How Restaurants Can Get Ready

While millennials have been soaking up the limelight for years, their successors, Gen Z, are beginning to enter the working world and, thus, the formal economy—and they’re coming in full force. The spending power of Gen Z is estimated to be between $29 billion and $143 billion, which is anything but a small chunk of change. It’s time to get started serving Generation Z. 

Considering the money that this new generation controls, any restaurant interested in success (all of them) would do well to consider what it is that Gen Z wants in a restaurant experience

While it can be tempting to see them as just a younger subset of millennials, Gen Z—made up of those born between the mid-nineties and about 2010—is markedly different from their predecessors in a variety of ways, including what they’re looking for when dining out.

Use these tactics to harness the spending power of Generation Z

  1. Provide a socially responsible restaurant experience
  2. Keep an active social media presence
  3. Update your menu 
  4. Offer fast and reliable service 
  5. Have a casual space 

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1. Provide a socially responsible restaurant experience

For Gen Z, dining out isn’t just about eating, but experiencing food. 

Whether it’s in the form of an eventful atmosphere (barcades are big again for a reason) or about the food itself, eating out is all about the experience

However, an underlying characteristic that Gen Z looks for in their restaurant experience is social and environmental responsibility. 

They don’t want just any restaurant experience, they want an experience that’s aligned with their desire to make a positive impact in the environment

By investing in socially and environmentally responsible measures such as sustainable food waste management, emerging technologies, food donations (Gen Z loves to give back) or even offering unique seasonal dishes, you’ll be able to start catching this highly sought generation. 

An easy way to start your path towards a more sustainable responsible restaurant? Use technology that reduces your day to day waste. 

Opting for a kitchen bump screen can help you reduce your carbon footprint by sending orders directly to the kitchen, without the paper waste and inefficiencies. Another option is swapping out regular menus for contactless table ordering. This can create an interactive experience for your guests while improving your efficiency and reducing mistakes and food returns.


2. Keep an active social media presence

One of the main ways that Gen Z decides where to eat is through social media platforms like Instagram.

From reviews to photos of food and drinks, influencers play a heavy role in the Gen Z world. This means that social media is one of the main ways to reach this target and you should be using social proof as your ally.

You don’t even need a huge marketing budget to be able to increase your social engagements.

By leveraging user-generated content (with permission!), reviews, creating blog posts and being active on different social media sites you can start to build your presence. 

According to Business Insider, Gen Z is most active on Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook. If this is a market you want to target, make sure you’re all set up and actively engaging in these sites.

Incorporate influencer marketing into your restaurant social media strategy

According to recently released research from the NPD group, Gen Zs made 14.6 billion visits to restaurants in 2018. This means Gen Z now represents 25% of total foodservice traffic.

So how do you bring them into your restaurant? Gen Z-conscious social media efforts.

If you’re trying to cater to younger generations, you can’t simply post a picture of your best dish, taken in poor lighting, across all channels. Your restaurant social media strategy needs to be a bit more nuanced than that.

Gen Z audiences, for example, are big on influencers. In fact, they further define influencers by four specific categories: celebrities, influencers, in-between cultural shapers, and micro-influencers.

Micro-influencers especially make sense when thinking about social media for restaurants. These are highly niche, localised individuals that tend to sustain much higher engagement rates than their macro-influencer counterparts.

Do your research on relevant foodie accounts and bloggers in your area—then reach out. Partnering with these individuals to promote your restaurant will make a major difference among Gen Zs in the authenticity department when compared with self-promotion.

Encourage sharing

Your Gen Z diners are a “snap first, eat and drink later” bunch. They’re on the hunt for experiences—specifically ones they can show off to their social media followers.

The way your restaurant is perceived on social media should be a reflection of what makes it unique in real life. This could come down to the aesthetics of your interior or sought after food items.

Or maybe it’s something a little more kitschy, colourful, and irresistible. The point is, pay attention to the aspects of your restaurant that are being shared on platforms like Instagram without even asking. In doing so, you’re likely to identify visuals worth capitalising on in your restaurant social media strategy.

Additionally, take note of highly visual and heavily photographed points in your neighbourhood. This is where you can find inspiration in the form of murals, popular menu items, and local culture. 

You may be able to incorporate some of these aspects into your promotion—driving future business from Gen Z customers eager to capture your restaurant from the lens of their own social feeds.

Experiment with video and bite-sized visual media

There’s a time and place for static imagery. But, for the sake of proving a point, do a Tags search of “burger” right now on Instagram. Your cheeseburger photo is not new news among the 18.5+ million posts that already exist in the category.

Not only that, but it’s not as relevant of a medium to Gen Zs as that of video and bite-sized visual media. This generation has grown up constantly bombarded with social content. And they have the selective scrolling capabilities to show for it.

Beef up your restaurant social media strategy with campaigns built around video, user-generated content and more interactive media like question stickers and polls in Instagram stories. The more creative you can be in your presentation, the more memorable your restaurant will be to the Gen Z clientele you’re trying to appeal to.

Know who you are as a brand

Stepping up your social media game for the sake of Gen Z diners is all about branding. You should know who you are and what you stand for. You should have a voice that expresses more than just: “We serve pizza.”

These younger audiences know when they’re being sold to. They turn to social media for entertainment—as a way to connect with their favourite brands in the same way they would their friends.

As a restaurant, it’s important to remember that your goal in existing on social media is to foster relationships. This means you should be spending more time talking with Gen Zs and less time talking at them.

3. Update your menu 

Gen Z doesn’t only have different preferences when it comes to social media and restaurant experiences, they also have a different palate than their predecessors! 

Some of the aspects that stand out are Gen Z’s preference for healthy options, smaller dishes and budget-friendly prices. 

By understanding their tastes and preferences, you’ll be able to adapt your current offering to something that can be more eye-catching to this new generation. 

Make it healthy 

Like millennials, Gen Z is also a health-conscious generation and they gravitate towards restaurants that offer menu items that cater to this. 

The reality is, Gen Z wants organic and natural foods. Having menu options that revolve around a healthy and sustainable lifestyle such as vegetarian dishes and organic ingredients will likely make you more popular with Gen Z. 

In the same vein, Gen Z drinks about 20% less than millennials, which means that having non-alcoholic options can also be a game-changer—and not just sodas and water but mocktails and the like.

It’s time to spice up your non-alcoholic drink menu!

Small dishes are a hit

Perhaps more than any other generation, Gen Z is all about crafting their own meals out of a couple of appetisers or small plates rather than ordering one larger entree. 

They also like to explore a number of foods when dining out, so sharing has become popular as well. This doesn’t mean eliminating main dishes from your menu, just don’t penalise them for splitting a meal and consider beefing up your app options.

Gen Z wants frugal options

This generation grew up during the Great Recession and saw what millennials went through, and they’ve learned the value of being smart with money. 

Frugality has come to define Gen Z, so along with having smaller, shareable options available, make sure you have options that hit lower price points to appeal to this money-savvy generation.


4. Offer fast and reliable service 

Gen Z is a generation that likes to graze on the go. 

Some days they might sit down for a proper lunch or dinner, but most of the time they’ll be more interested in grabbing something quick on the go or ordering online. 

In order to be able to offer a speedy service that appeals to this on-the-go generation, you should consider updating the technology you have at your restaurant. Instead of manually taking orders and processing transactions, opt for point of sale (POS) technology that will automate day to day processes. By automating transactions you’ll be able to provide faster service to your Gen Z customers. 

With a POS, you’ll be able to provide faster turnaround by offering tableside ordering. If your customer wants to order take out, have a quick bite at the bar or even split small plates between their group, by using a cloud-based POS you’ll be able to provide excellent service in the blink of an eye. 

serving generation z

Chez Mère Grand uses Lightspeed POS to provide fast and reliable service. 


5. Have a casual space 

There’s a reason why coffee shops are all the rage these days. While Gen Z is a fan of quick eats, when time allows, they want to dine or drink somewhere that they won’t be rushed out the second they finish their food. 

Dining out is often seen as an opportunity to catch up with friends and socialise with peers. This means that Gen Z gravitates towards spaces where they can nibble, drink and chat for long stretches of time.

One way to strike a balance between turning over tables and catering to a group that likes to linger is to dedicate some of your restaurant space to more informal seating. Think about setting up a collection of a few couches and end tables or perhaps even a dedicated co-working space.    

This way Gen Z’ers can sit for hours without taking up a table you need to turnover to manage your profit margins


The age of serving Generation Z

Even though as a restaurant, you cater to many different demographics, it’s important to start adapting and learning about new generations as they come up. 

While you don’t need to change your entire restaurant to this generation, it’s important to understand what makes them tick and what changes you are willing to make to capture their attention.  

As millennials once were (and still are) the generation to follow, now is the time to keep your eyes open for this trailblazing demographic. The more you learn now, the more sales you can capture from them later!

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