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The Age of Restaurant “Favorites”

By learning more about what tastes and influences are shared among age groups, restaurants can create profitable and engaging opportunities around those values and preferences.

Restaurant operators know that different people have different preferences, and that these differences can trend across generational groups. The following generationaly-specific dining preferences can be helpful in better serving your restaurant customers and their varying preferences.

Generation Z: Teens & 20s

This young, tech-savvy group (also referred to as “Zoomers”) cares about living a purposeful life. The experience of growing up with technology at their fingertips is reflected in their choices and expectations—they frequent QSRs and fast casual restaurants and are always on the lookout for tech-enabled ways that enhance speed and convenience in their dining experience. They are always “connected” through online interaction and heavily influenced by social media.

Food wants: Unique/trendy and craveable items, indulgence, and name-brand ingredients.

Their favorite operation: Offers delivery and has a strong sense of social/environmental responsibility and features natural/organic or sustainably sourced ingredients. Free Wi-Fi is always appreciated.

Millennials: Late 20s to Early 40s

The Millennial generation strives to live an interesting life and represents the largest generation in the workforce, many of whom are in their prime spending years. They represent a more diverse group than the older generations and are largely the children of Baby Boomers. Like Zoomers, this group frequently visits QSR and fast casual restaurants, but seeks out establishments that are kid friendly. Tech is a natural part of their every day.

Food wants: Trying new things, unique offerings and seasonal/LTOs, and kid-friendly menus.

Their favorite operation: Recognizes the need for nourishing foods (vs. traditional health claims) including healthy kid’s menus that feature fresh options. Delivery is also important, and tech-enabled ways that enhance the overall experience is a plus.

Generation X: Mid-40s to Mid-50s

Gen X grew up in times of shifting societal values, so they were self-reliant at an early age. Today, they try to achieve balance in their lives, but are the most likely of all generations to go out of their way to dine at a restaurant they know and love. They generally have high disposable income and are increasingly willing to spend their money on dining experiences they feel are compelling and enjoyable.

Food wants: Foods and flavor combinations that offer visual and conceptual appeal and deliver on taste, larger portions, and health-conscious food and drink options.

Their favorite operation: Serves quality coffee, offers health-conscious foods and beverages, and creates pleasant atmosphere and ambience.

Baby Boomers: Mid 50s to Mid 70s

Accounting for 1/3 of the adult population, many in this generation are already retired—some having retired early due to Covid-19. Baby Boomers prize “choice” in their consumption but prefer convenient locations and independent restaurants. Overall, they care about quality when dining out, which encompasses food, experience, cleanliness, and order accuracy. They tend to be empty nesters and often show affinity for their “usual place.” It is important to note that Baby Boomers are still staying home in large numbers and watching their spending.

Food wants: Value for money spent, health-conscious choices, and fresh ingredients.

Their favorite operation: Offers outdoor seating, provides coupons or other ways to save, and new twists on familiar foods (Baby Boomers don’t often care for entirely new foods).

Considering preferences across generations, the biggest takeaway is that all consumers are in search of value, convenience and offerings that hold familiar, craveable appeal. To simplify the menu, operators may consider featuring a protein that can be served in a variety of formats or flavors. Salmon, for example, which is liked or loved by 60% of patrons across demographics, is a protein that can be served in any way to suit the taste of consumers. Its flexibility ranges from traditional to globally inspired cuisine and features nourishing benefits that check the box for those who want health-conscious options.

As younger generations advance in age, family-oriented menus and settings will become even more important, as will health-focused offerings that emphasize freshness. As ever, customers are drawn to amenities that elevate the overall dining experience.

Operator’s Edge –
Technomic, 2022 Generational CTR Key Themes, Apr 2022
Technomic, Generational Consumer Trend Reports, Aug 2022
Datassential, Salmon SNAP Profile, Aug 2022