The NPD Group has released a report that shows Generation Z is not following trends that have occurred in previous generations when it comes to restaurant usage.
Historically, the heaviest restaurant usage stage occurs from the ages 18-24, which is currently where the oldest among Gen Zers are situated. Two decades ago, when Gen Xers were young adults, they averaged 284 visits per person a year. Millennials, as young adults, were impacted by the Great Recession, causing a cutback in 40 restaurant visits per person a year versus their older Gen X counterparts.
Gen Z young adults, whose outside recreation, like restaurant visits, was thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic, made 218 annual restaurant visits per person in the 12 months through February 2022, 66 visits less than Gen Xers in 2002.
The pandemic isn’t the only factor keeping Gen Zers from restaurants; they have more interests vying for their dollars than previous generations. Apparel, footwear, beauty and technology are among the categories on which young adult Gen Zers spend their money. The report points out that many apparel brands have successfully tapped into Gen Z values, like diversity and empowerment and, as a result, have gained a larger share of their spending.
Increased spending on categories like apparel and overall inflationary pressures have heightened Gen Z’s price sensitivity. Half of the Gen Zers surveyed by NPD for the report said that higher menu prices had impacted their restaurant visits. Price is the most important attribute among consumers 18-24 years old when choosing a restaurant. Student loan debt hasn’t factored into Gen Z spending, but it will in the future.
“Restaurant operators and their manufacturer partners must quickly adapt to how Gen Z consumers think and feel,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “An understanding of which menu items to emphasize, the food attributes they seek, menu innovations that appeal to them and their preferred advertising platforms will help you win the favor of this valuable generation.”