Gen Z is the growing group of students you need to know now. Since 2013, they’ve been influencing what colleges and universities offer for foodservice, and that’s not changing anytime soon. They make up 27% of the US population, and their spending power is on the rise.1 So now’s the time to take a closer look at the tastes and preferences of students born between 1995 and 2012.
Gen Z has never known life without the internet, so they’re tech savvy and they expect to be able to get what they need and want quickly. Personalization and portability are very important to them when it comes to food, and they expect brands to adjust to their preferences.2
This group is more ethnically diverse than prior generations, according to the US Census. Because of that, they gravitate to innovative and ethnic cuisines.3 Their cravings don’t stop there though. Gen Z also looks for balance so they’ll seek out diverse options, from better-for-you cuisine like salad and smoothies today to burgers and pizza tomorrow.4,5
Because Gen Z has a tendency to pick up just about any food for a quick bite, almost all foods are becoming snacks.6 Twenty-three percent say they prefer to build a meal of appetizers or snack foods, and 42% say they want quick bites of street foods.7
How to Catch More Z’s
So, what does all this mean for foodservice directors as this generation continues to flood campuses? Here are three tips to keep in mind.
1. Be Transparent
These savvy students know where to get information, and they’ll know if you are holding back. So be sure to inform them where their food came from, what’s in it and anything else they may ask.
2. Always On
Have a digital and mobile presence so students know where you are and that you have the foods they want, anyway they want them—from dine in and party orders to takeout and delivery—24/7.
3. It’s the Little Things
Play to Gen Z's snacking tendencies with mini versions of popular ethnic street foods or mini portions of your best-selling dishes. Be sure to make your snack offerings available late nights too.
1 & 2 ift.com, “Gen Zs expect food brands to follow their needs” 1/24/18
3 mediapost.com, “Multiracial Gen Z And The Future Of Marketing” 9/3/15
4 & 6 foodprocessing.com, “Feeding Generation Z's High Food IQ” 9/26/17
5 & 7 upserve.com, “Generation Z Wants New Food Trends for 2017” 7/1/17
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