This article originally appeared in Modern Restaurant Management.
To attract Generation Z into your restaurant, you’ll first need to understand them. Gen Z is a generation born from 1997 to 2012, with the oldest members turning 25 this year. Many of Gen Z’s traits are most likely shaped by the fact that they have grown up with access to the internet, smartphones and social media.
With this group accounting for approximately 20.66 percent of the U.S. population, Gen Z is becoming a larger customer-base for restaurants. This is driving operators to find new ways to catch the attention of these potential patrons. Below are a few ideas to attract Gen Z customers to your restaurant.
The National Restaurant Association’s 2021 State of the Industry report showed only 83% of Gen Z consumers wanted to return to restaurants. But that does not mean that they are married to the idea of cooking at home for every meal, so offer as many dining options as possible including dine-in, carryout, online ordering, curbside pick-up, and delivery.
Offer a Unique Dining Experience
Constant internet exposure has given Gen Z more insights into new trends and cultures—without leaving their home—than any previous generation. They can be drawn in with the aspect of learning new flavor profiles and experimenting with sustainable farm-to-table recipes.
It can be easy and relatively inexpensive to experiment with these trends without abandoning your established crowd favorites. Test out local organic produce or farm-raised meats as specials on temporary, seasonal menus to gauge interest and test profitability without having to commit to updating your normal menu.
Continue To-Go Cocktails Where Still Allowed
According to the State of the Restaurant Industry 2022 report mentioned above, 70 percent of Gen Z’ers noted the ability to add alcohol to a takeout or delivery order is a determining factor in their restaurant decisions. Make it a point of differentiation for your brand in this highly competitive environment by continuing to-go liquor sales while the option is still available in your jurisdiction.
Take an Environmental Stand
Gen Z has proven itself to be very socially conscious and expects brands to take a stand on both social and environmental issues. According to a McKinsey study specifically on Gen Z, about 65% try to learn the origins of anything they buy or consume including where it is made, how it is made, and what materials it’s made from. Promoting that your brand supports organic, sustainable, or plant-based options along with the reduction of food, water, and paper product waste on your website, social feeds, and menu will attract those who support similar efforts.
Make Yourself Mobile-Friendly
Gen Z’ers are most likely to choose a restaurant based on their phone apps’ suggestions so operators should make sure their website is optimized and mobile-friendly. 92% of consumers will pick a business on the first page of local search results, and websites that aren’t optimized have a lower chance of landing in the top ranks. Including precise title tags, meta descriptions, and headers will help search engines easily find and share menus, location, ordering options, and more.
Incorporate Videos Whenever Possible
Gen Z is known for having shorter attention spans, which makes video content a priority when engaging them. Adding video content to the restaurant’s website is a good way to get Google to pull the thumbnail in search results, leading to increased traffic. But don’t wait for consumers to find the videos. Join them on their favorite streaming platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat to make sure content is seen.
Explore Dynamic Content to Encourage Interaction
Engage and pull in an audience by creating fun quizzes and interesting polls. For example, add a simple “yes” or “no” poll such as “are you interested in plant-based menu options?” to an Instagram story. This data can be utilized to personalize marketing strategies. From collecting the feedback, restaurants can gauge if there is interest in adding meatless options to the menu.
Be sure to let followers know that they’ve been heard when promoting any changes or improvements based on their feedback. Knowing that they are empowered to drive change by voicing their opinion will strengthen their loyalty to a brand.
With Gen Z consumers being the most sophisticated when it comes to technology, it’s important to meet their expectations. Thirty-seven percent of these young adults and teenagers say the ability to order and pay with smartphones will make them choose one restaurant over another, which could help or hurt sales depending on your prioritization of technology. Whether restaurant owners decide to invest in online ordering software, in-store kiosk self-ordering, digital payment options, QR codes, or more, they should be sure the customer experience is seamless and convenient.
Offer Discounts with Time Limits
Gen Z is attracted to deals that provide the best value and brands that offer discounts. However, businesses don’t want to have the audience scroll past posts thinking they will come across it again later, only to never return. Tap into Gen Z’s FOMO by encouraging followers to act now by adding an end date or countdown sticker to promote limited time offers such as “Join us for BOGO wings. Available December 9-12 only.”
While no operator should abandon their tried-and-true branding and marketing strategies that project across all generations, learning how to appeal to Generation Z can prove to be worth the effort. Gen X and Boomers are also increasingly exposed to these modern platforms and ideologies and quickly warming up to them creating a win-win scenario for a restaurant’s marketing efforts.