The children of the 1970s and ‘80s were the first to be labeled by a single letter: Generation X. Following them came the Millennials (also called Generation Y), who became young adults in the early 2000s. But the latest coming-of-age consumer group—Generation Z (or Post-Millennials)—is contributing dollars and influence (as the largest, and growing, segment of the U.S. population) that should make restaurants take notice. Here’s how you can win while serving Gen Z.

 

Increasingly, as dining choices abound, eating out is more about social interaction than just satisfying hunger. And this is especially true of Gen Z patrons—but with a twist. Post-Millennials aren’t just looking for a place to eat (socialize) with friends, but they’re looking for a restaurant that matches their values and fits into their unique individual culture.

 

To become a preferred Generation Z meeting place, consider these values:

 

Community

A Gen Z-approved restaurant is more than a place to grab food with friends, but is practically a part of the group. Much like an iconic city becomes not just a location but essentially a character in a film or series, Post-Millennials will dine at restaurants that are so community-friendly that they become a personified member of the community as well. The good news for restaurants is that these patrons will become brand advocates who spread the news about your restaurant to their social circles and online connections.

 

Authenticity

Generation Z expects authenticity in the experiences and relationships they value. If your restaurant is part of their social community, experiences inside the restaurant should be consistent, real, and human (your restaurant is another person in their experience). So be authentic, listen to and connect with patrons, admit mistakes (and make it right), and let your restaurant and staff express a “personality” that reaches the Gen Z culture.

 

Relevance

Documenting meals on Instagram, taking constant selfies, and engaging with a Snapchat audience are just a few of the behaviors that have exploded in the mobile age. Gen Z lives on their tech, so the solution isn’t weaning them from it to enjoy a “traditional” meal experience. Rather it’s participating and making use of it. The consequences of failing in this arena reach beyond your restaurant’s physical location—and can be instantaneous as this connected generation will spread the news far, wide, and fast. But it’s also an opportunity. Post-Millennials want to connect with you even when they’re not dining, so if you are present and engaged where they are (online, social media, social apps), you will be a relevant member of their community.

 

Experience

The technology Post-Millennials invest so much time on may seem complicated, yet Gen Z craves simplicity. In fact, their favorite apps create shortcuts to previously complex activities. For example, Uber = quick and prepaid ride service. Fast food emoji support = fun and super simple favorite-meal reordering. Mobile payment = secure, one-touch, and wallet-free transactions. Gen Z loves these kinds of innovations, so providing service that makes everything seem “simple” to Post-Millennial patrons is appealing. Embrace technology that improves the dining (and paying) experience, and Generation Z will reward you.

 

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