What restaurant owners need to know about Gen Z

By Rieva Lesonsky

Gen Z, or iGen, as global research company Mintel refers to them, is the fastest-growing generation today. They’re also the first to grow up in a completely digital world. While the Census Bureau defines Gen Z as born from 2000 to today, we’re talking about consumers aged 11 to 23 here. They make up 17% of the population and their fickle loyalties have a big impact on businesses like restaurants.

According to Mintel’s U.S. report on marketing to the iGeneration, only 37% of iGens aged 18-23 believe their generation is likely to be loyal to brands they like, while 58% say iGens are more concerned about keeping up with trends.

Having graduated from fast food, iGens, says Mintel, “are confronted with a variety of dining options which can result in less loyalty to one specific restaurant.” This is leading many restaurants to embrace trendier foods, though Mintel warns restaurateurs shouldn’t “jump on every viral [food] trend that hits social media.”

Many iGens don’t own cars and rely on ride-sharing services to get around—a trend that savvy restaurants are tapping into. In order to capture this market, last year Taco Bell did a pilot program with ride-sharing service Lyft that allowed passengers to request a stop at a Taco Bell drive-thru. Taco Bell will be rolling the program out nationwide this year. And of course Uber Eats started delivering restaurant food in 2014.

Gen Z is the most culturally diverse generation in American history, which Mintel says gives them more of a “global perspective” when dining out. And 40% of iGens say social media exposes them to food they never heard of.

They also want to eat healthier. For instance, according to Mintel’s upcoming report on healthy dining trends, 33% of iGens (compared to 20% of all consumers) want to see more menus feature dishes that promote healthy skin.

If you own a restaurant, you’ll need to rethink what you serve and how you market your business in order to attract iGens. Mintel says every day, 60% of iGens visit Snapchat, 62% check Instagram, and 72% go to YouTube. And since 60% say social media is “a good resource” when they choose a restaurant, you need to make sure you’re active and engaging on social media.