Adam Dean
May 11, 2017
Gen Z…New Kids on the Block
Gen Z…New Kids on the Block

As some of you may recall, I wrote my last blog on the impact Millennials have on foodservice today. The blog turned out to receive quite a bit of feedback. Some of the feedback was, why hadn’t I featured Gen Z in place of Millennials… since Millennials are sooooo last generation?  It’s a fair point, and I was curious to know if in fact Gen Z drastically alter the Millennials’ food and beverage landscape. So I decided to explore the Gen Z world and see what I could find.

A Gen Z Profile

Who are these Gen Z folks, and what’s their deal? Well, Generation Z fall between 1995/1996 and 2010/2011, they are labeled as the “recession kids,” and there are an estimated one million more of them than their predecessor, the Millennial. The Great Recession is the defining event that shapes this generation. It’s important to keep in mind that as a whole, this group has not reached consumer status yet. So there is still a lot of speculation about all of their defining characteristics. The initial indicators suggest that they are more frugal than Millennials, they are motivated to buy from small businesses instead of from “big brands,” and they are the first generation to have had technology at their fingertips from the day they were born.

Does This Change my Millennial Game Plan?

Not exactly. Yes, Gen Z are different from Millennials, but I wouldn’t say their preferences are a drastic departure from Millennials’ food and beverage preferences. Remember that it is the Millennials who have been pioneering the movement toward small scale farms and sustainable farming practices. Millennials appreciate the story of their food and the authenticity of the product. When presented with two similar products, the Millennial will choose the product with the most transparency. For Gen Z, not wanting “big brands,” I would argue, extends to large scale farms and many of the household brand names we are used to seeing. Gen Z expect transparency from the brands they buy. I realize that anthropologists studying these generations would give a huge eye roll here, but I think that when it comes to food and beverage, Gen Z forge forward bearing the Millennials’ torch. Both generations share perspectives on the outlook of the food and beverage industry.

How the Millennial Design Still Works for Gen Z

Since both generations share similar expectations of the industry, planning for the Millennial will not make you outdated. The important approach to designing your operation is to keep it timeless. This ensures that the look of your operation will be as relevant in ten years as it is today. This approach doesn’t differ between the two generations, with the exception that you need to anticipate for an increase in technology. For example, planning for the possibility of streamlining the entire order and payment process through an online platform, if that isn’t in place already. What will change throughout the decade, will be your marketing efforts, how your guests are engaged, the level of transparency shared with your guests, and the products that are sourced for your operation.

Where to Go from Here

If I have one piece of advice for your future foodservice plans, it is: stay the course. The world is ever-changing, and technology advances faster and faster every day. It’s still too soon to have a clear understanding of how Gen Z will be defined. While Gen Z differ from Millennials, both share core values that can be easily implemented by foodservice operators. Continue to be transparent with the food products you are buying. Celebrate the sustainable farms you are sourcing from. Emphasize the authenticity of the menus you are creating. Last but certainly not least, embrace technology and the opportunities it brings.

By:  Adam Dean

Senior Associate | Management Advisory Services

Washington, DC

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