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Move Over Gen Y—Gen Z is Here

Here's what restaurants are doing to cater to the changing demographic.

By Lydia Heerwagen<p>1851 Contributor</p>
SPONSOREDUpdated 3:15PM 01/13/17

For the past few years, businesses have been catering to the millennials. It’s no surprise – they represent over 80 million customers in the U.S., and it’s estimated they will spend over $10 trillion in their lifetimes according to Forbes.  There’s no question that business and restaurants won’t continue accommodating them, but a new player has arrived and they are changing the game - Generation Z.

Generation Z, also known as the Post-Millennials, are individuals whose birth years range from the mid-1990s to early 2000s and they represent over 83 million customers. They are the biggest generation since the baby boomers but the difference is that they have grown up with technology and social media. The challenge is getting on their radar. Businesses require speedy high-tech services, eye-catching marketing, and social media that is engaging.

Restaurants are a huge player in the Gen Z game, and they are already making their moves to be in the forefront of the game. According to The NPD Group, from February 2015-2016, Gen Z accounted for $78 billion spent at restaurants. Patrick O’Dell, Director of Brand Marketing at Pita Pit, has noticed their restaurant interest and new trends.

“Generation Z is dining out a lot, and the trend will continue. One thing I’ve noticed is they snack a lot more than other generations. They are disrupting the three square meals idea and opting for smaller, lighter portions more often,” O’Dell said.

He isn’t the only one noticing new trends taking shape. Scott Iversen, Vice President of Marketing for Toppers Pizza*, has seen how much the digital world really does matter.

“Gen Z is the first generation that has grown up with everything digital, and they have so much more access than prior generations. They get what they want and expect it the way they want. Gen Z is also more protective of who they share things with on social media and tend to share only in their closest networks. They require a lot of transparency and authenticity from the brands they engage with, so you have to create and provide content that is relevant for Gen Z to share,” Iversen stated.

To better cater to this generation, Toppers Pizza has also been getting involved with Snapchat.

“To us, it’s not as much about selling as it is to have compelling contests and content that they share with friends. Content has to be immediately interesting. Their attention span is much shorter, so you have to get in front of them effectively,” said Iversen.

Pita Pit is getting in front of Gen Z in the social space as well by continuously posting engaging content and hosting contests and challenges. They also have a loyalty and rewards program to get customers involved. They’ve made it more than just a points system and have created an engaging aspect to it to be able to reward customers in many different ways.

As for what both Iversen and O’Dell think the future holds for restaurants, they both know it is technology. Toppers Pizza’s goal is to be more flexible than other big box stores, so they are constantly looking at ways to incorporate technology into their online ordering as well as creating engagement through technology. One example is they recently crowd-sourced their 3-Cheese Garlicstix.  

Pita Pit knows restaurants need to be prepared for more online ordering as well as kiosk ordering. For Gen Z, it’s less about person-to-person interaction than person-to-digital interaction. Pita Pit also has something big up their sleeve that won’t be rolled out until the middle of next year.

“We are reshaping our digital ecosystem – everything from mobile to online ordering to the mobile and web experience. When that is complete, we should be able to communicate more effectively and efficiently to Gen Z,” said O’Dell.

Technology is the future for Gen Z. Now the question is, what will the next generation want?  

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.