While operators continue to adapt to suit the preferences of Millennials, a new generation is beginning to make waves.

Gen Z’s may still be young, but the most recent Cassandra Report released by the digital agency Deep Focus indicates that this group of 7- to 17-year-olds wield considerable influence when it comes to where their families choose to eat. 

According to the report, this group influences 93 percent of all household purchases and spending decisions.

With numbers like that, Deep Focus chief marketing officer Jamie Gutfreund says it is time for operators to get to know “the new foodies.”

 “Brands who aren’t targeting them today do need to start paying attention,” she says. “They’re going to be the future consumers, and they’re going to demand an entirely different paradigm and interaction with the brands they support. It’s time to learn lessons today rather than when it’s too late.”

Gutfreund says that Gen Z’s are more informed about their food choices than any generation preceding them, and they require engagement with brands on a more individualized level.

This includes communicating with kids on an equal footing and providing a meaningful and transparent narrative about what brands stand for.

“Kids want to feel like insiders—like they’re part of the conversation, not just being talked at,” she says. “Legacy and heritage is quite fascinating to them, but it should be expressed in a more modern or relevant way. Kids want brands that reflect the culture that they admire.”

Not only do they want a brand they can relate to and admire, Gutfreund says Gen Z’s want a brand that is able to express its culture in a visually interesting way.

“Gen Z’s are very aware of presenting their story and their narrative in a visual way, whether it’s on Instagram or creating a Vine,” Gutfreund says. “They don’t want anything that just looks basic or average. They want to be able to share the food and the experience that reflects well on them.”

In a time when many quick serves are struggling to maintain the interest of the younger generations, she says that projecting an image of food as an experience could drive more sales.

She adds that above all, this experience should focus on allowing Gen Z’s to show off their independence.

“Operators need to appeal to their autonomy,” Gutfreund says. “They need to give information about the meal and about the experience. To recognize that [quick-serve] restaurants can be a special treat and to position them as an experience as opposed to a place for sustenance is a good way to look at it.”

She says this can include having separate registers for kids to order for themselves and use their money, or re-naming kids’ menus by erasing the word “kid.”

No matter how brands adapt, Gutfreund says they need to start now.

“I’ve heard some brands say… when they get back to a certain age, they’ll go back to the way it was, but there’s no going back. This is the new future.”


By Emily Byrd

Consumer Trends, News