What Will it Take to Win Over Generation Z as Foodies?


For the past few years we have been asking how do we get millennials into our restaurants. Well, I have some good news and some bad news for you. Millennials are not the problem you think they are. That’s the good news. The bad news is you’re going to need to shift gears for the generation coming up quickly right behind them...Generation Z.

Born between 1997 and the present this young demographic is really hot for transparency in what they eat. While they only make up 25% of the market it is 25% that has a big digital impact in the world. This generation takes to the internet to start a revolution and it’s coming to your restaurant soon. How can you win over this “fresh-centric” generation? Here are a few ways to get them to embrace your restaurant brand:

1. You Need Values

While it’s easy to pull words out of the air and say that’s your culture. The Gen Z want to see if your words are backed by your actions. Say you’re into locally sourced produce, yet do you have any names they recognize on your menu? Strike one. Gen Z has heard all the talk from the millennials, the Gen Xers and they won’t take brands that are not authentic. They have no issue on the size of your brand unlike the older millennials who favor smaller brands. Gen Z just wants you to be honest. That means have strong values that they will identify with. So, know who you are and be authentic about it.


2. Pick a Battle

Gen Z loves a good quest to get behind and there are so many out there you can align your brand with to get them on board. No GMO’s. The equality issue. Immigration. Pick a topic that you know your brand would feel good getting behind and then commit to a cause. Oh, and please don’t pick a cause just because you think it’s the issue of the month. Remember that authenticity is the key and you must pick a topic you are passionate about. What if it rocks the boat in your community? Rocking the boat a little shows you stand behind your beliefs and that goes a long way to getting people (of all generations) behind you. Integrity is a powerful thing.

3. Break from Tradition

Gen Z wants to eat when it fits into their time schedule. So, break away from traditional meal periods to have someone available for this “snacking generation.” They love breakfast all day (thanks McDonalds), they love convenience (either online-ordering or delivery), and they love space to hang out with friends (community tables are hot, if you have WiFi).

Offer late night or reverse Happy Hour menus (early Gen Z are hitting drinking age). However, be smart about it and have a plan for designated drivers or Ubers available for guests. Be known for looking out for your guests and it will come back as good karma. Billy Dec from Rockit Ranch in Chicago offers free transportation between his many different concepts so guests can have fun and still check out his other venues. That’s smart business.


4. Tell Me a Story

Gen Z grew up with mostly foodie parents and Food Network. They know food and they also what to know where it came from. Smart brands, like Sweetgreen, go the extra mile to tell their story, their values, their mission and even their food ethos which includes profiles of the vendors they source from. All of this is shown through videos (and Gen Z loves videos.) Now that is transparency in food operations! You are going to need to dig deep to uncover your “why” as Simon Sinek would suggest in his best selling book, Start With Why. To paraphrase Sinek, “Remember that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it!” You might have amazing food and service, but if you can’t translate that into a story that Gen Z can relate too... then, you’re missing the opportunity to get them turned onto your brand.

What will it take to win Gen Z over? Honesty. Solid core values. Transparency. Storytelling. Having the courage to support your beliefs is a good start.

By Donald Burns, Industry Expert