Restaurant Business

How Restaurants Can Get a Slice of Gen Z's $360B Spending Power

Jessica Fernandes
Updated on:
December 17, 2023
12 min read
Table of Contents

Generation Z, commonly called Gen Z, represents the demographic cohort born between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s. As the youngest generation enters adulthood, Gen Z possesses unique characteristics and preferences that set them apart from previous generations. One of the most noteworthy aspects of this generation is their significant spending power, which holds great importance for various industries, including the restaurant sector.

In today's dynamic marketplace, where consumer behaviour constantly evolves, restaurants must recognise and adapt to the preferences of different customer segments. Gen Z's spending power cannot be underestimated, as they are projected to become the largest consumer group by 2026, surpassing even the influential millennial cohort. This generation's economic influence extends beyond their direct spending, as their choices and opinions often influence the purchasing decisions of their families and peers.

To thrive in this highly competitive landscape, restaurants must pay attention to the unique characteristics of Gen Z consumers and tailor their offerings to meet their expectations. Ignoring this vital consumer group could result in missed opportunities and potential revenue loss for restaurants. By understanding and catering to Gen Z's preferences and habits, restaurants can secure their loyalty and capitalise on their potential as brand ambassadors who can spread positive word-of-mouth and enhance the restaurant's reputation among their peers.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the specific aspects of Gen Z's preferences, habits, and values that are particularly relevant to the restaurant industry. By recognising and harnessing the power of this influential consumer group, restaurants can position themselves for long-term success in an increasingly competitive market.

Understanding Gen Z Consumers

First, let’s begin by understanding Gen Z Consumers:

A. Characteristics and values of Gen Z:

As a generation, Gen Z exhibits distinctive characteristics and values that significantly shape consumer behaviour. They have grown up in a world of rapid technological advancements, economic uncertainties, and increasing social and cultural diversity. These factors have influenced their outlook on life, shaping their preferences and priorities as consumers.

Unlike previous generations, Gen Z is known for individuality and personal expression. They value diversity, inclusivity, and social justice, often drawn to brands and businesses that align with their values. Gen Z consumers prioritise authenticity and transparency, seeking authentic experiences and ethical practices from the companies they support. This focuses on values and purpose, influencing their decision-making process.

B. Technological savviness and digital engagement:

Gen Z is the first generation to have grown up entirely in the digital age. They are accustomed to constant connectivity and have an innate understanding of technology. This digital immersion has made them incredibly tech-savvy and highly engaged with digital platforms and social media. They rely on digital channels to seek information, connect with others, and make purchasing decisions.

The impact of social media on Gen Z's choices cannot be overstated. Social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube significantly shape their preferences and influence purchasing decisions. Online content creators, brand collaborations, and user-generated reviews often influence them. Gen Z values peer recommendations and seeks validation from their social networks before making choices, especially regarding dining experiences.

C. Shift in dining preferences and expectations:

Gen Z's dining preferences and expectations differ from those of previous generations. They are known for valuing experiences over material possessions, translating to a desire for unique and immersive dining experiences. Traditional dining concepts are challenged as Gen Z seeks novelty, creativity, and customisation in their food choices.

Health consciousness is another prominent characteristic among Gen Z consumers. They are more likely to prioritise fresh, organic, and locally sourced ingredients. Sustainability and environmental impact are also key considerations for this generation, with a preference for eco-friendly practices and sustainable packaging.

Additionally, convenience plays a crucial role in Gen Z's dining preferences. They have grown up with on-demand services and fast-paced lifestyles, leading them to seek quick-service options, delivery services, and innovative food delivery apps.

Restaurants that can adapt to these changing preferences and expectations are well-positioned to capture the attention and loyalty of Gen Z consumers. By offering unique experiences, embracing transparency, leveraging social media marketing, and prioritising sustainability and convenience, restaurants can establish strong connections with Gen Z and gain a competitive edge in this evolving market.

Gen Z Dining Habits

Let’s further Tap into Gen Z's Dining Habits:

A. Embracing digital platforms and online presence:

For restaurants to effectively target Gen Z consumers, embracing digital platforms and establishing a solid online presence is crucial. Gen Z heavily relies on technology and digital channels for information, recommendations, and decision-making. A restaurant's online presence, including a well-designed website, active social media accounts, and positive online reviews, can significantly influence Gen Z's perception and likelihood of patronising the establishment.

Restaurants should invest in creating engaging and visually appealing content that resonates with Gen Z's preferences. Regularly updating social media platforms with high-quality photos, videos, and interactive posts can help capture their attention and generate interest. Additionally, leveraging influencer collaborations and user-generated content can amplify reach and credibility among Gen Z audiences.

B. Offering unique and Instagram-worthy experiences:

Gen Z is drawn to unique and memorable experiences they can document and share on social media platforms, particularly Instagram. Restaurants that offer aesthetically pleasing dishes, innovative presentation techniques, or immersive dining concepts have a higher chance of attracting Gen Z customers. The ability to create "Instagrammable" moments is a powerful marketing tool as Gen Z consumers are likely to promote their experiences online, leading to increased visibility and potential customer engagement.

C. Prioritizing sustainability and ethical practices:

Gen Z places a strong emphasis on sustainability and ethical practices. They are more likely to support restaurants that demonstrate a commitment to environmental responsibility, such as using locally sourced ingredients, implementing recycling programs, or reducing food waste. By transparently incorporating sustainable practices and communicating these efforts, restaurants can align with Gen Z's values and gain loyalty.

D. Providing customisation and personalisation options:
Gen Z values individuality and personal expression. Restaurants offering customisation and personalisation options allow Gen Z consumers to tailor their dining experiences to their preferences. This can include build-your-own meal options, personalised dietary choices, or interactive experiences like chef collaborations or DIY food stations. By providing these choices, restaurants cater to Gen Z's desire for unique and personalised experiences, fostering a sense of ownership and satisfaction.

By implementing these strategies, restaurants can effectively tap into Gen Z's dining habits. Embracing digital platforms and online presence, offering unique and Instagram-worthy experiences, prioritising sustainability and ethical practices, and providing customisation and personalisation options all contribute to creating a compelling and attractive dining experience for Gen Z consumers. By understanding and meeting their preferences, restaurants can establish long-lasting connections and drive business growth within this influential consumer segment.

Create Gen Z friendly menus

With that in mind, let’s see how to go about creating a Gen Z-friendly menu:

A. Incorporating healthier and plant-based options:

Gen Z has grown interested in healthier food choices and plant-based diets. They prioritise their well-being and are more conscious about the impact of their food choices on their health and the environment. Restaurants can cater to this demand by incorporating healthier options, such as salads, grain bowls, smoothies, and plant-based alternatives for popular burgers and tacos. By providing these options, restaurants can attract health-conscious Gen Z consumers and demonstrate their commitment to offering nutritious and sustainable choices.

B. Catering to dietary restrictions and preferences:

Gen Z encompasses diverse dietary restrictions and preferences, including vegetarianism, veganism, gluten-free diets, and various allergies. Restaurants should accommodate these needs by clearly labelling menu items, offering alternative ingredients or substitutions, and ensuring proper handling and preparation to avoid cross-contamination. By catering to these dietary restrictions and preferences, restaurants create an inclusive environment that welcomes a broader range of Gen Z customers.

C. Experimenting with global flavours and fusion cuisines:

Gen Z is known for its adventurous palate and interest in exploring global flavours. They are more open to trying new and unique cuisines that offer exciting taste experiences. Restaurants can tap into this preference by incorporating international flavours into their menus. This could include fusion cuisines that blend culinary traditions, creating innovative and unexpected combinations. By offering diverse and culturally inspired dishes, restaurants can appeal to Gen Z's desire for culinary exploration and provide them with Instagram-worthy and shareable dining experiences.

D. Offering shareable and interactive food experiences:

Gen Z values social interactions and shared experiences, even when it comes to dining. Restaurants can capitalise on this by offering shareable food options like small plates, tapas-style dishes, or family-style meals. This encourages group dining and fosters a sense of community. Additionally, interactive food experiences, like DIY food stations or build-your-own options, allow Gen Z consumers to engage with their meals and personalise their dining experience. By creating opportunities for interaction and participation, restaurants can create memorable and enjoyable moments that resonate with Gen Z's social nature.

By considering these elements when designing a menu, restaurants can create a Gen Z-friendly dining experience that meets their preferences and expectations and fosters a positive and engaging dining atmosphere.

Utilise Social Media to Attract Gen Z Crowds in Restaurants

Next, let’s see how to utilise social media and influencer marketing. An essential task to adhere to if you wish to attract the Gen Z crowd:

A. Leveraging popular social media platforms for promotion:

Social media plays a significant role in reaching and engaging Gen Z consumers. Platforms like Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat are popular among this generation. They allow restaurants to showcase their offerings, share their brand story, and connect with potential customers. By creating compelling and visually appealing content, using relevant hashtags, and actively engaging with their audience, restaurants can increase their visibility and build a strong online presence among Gen Z consumers.

B. Collaborating with influencers and brand ambassadors:

Influencers and brand ambassadors have a powerful influence over Gen Z consumers. These individuals have built a loyal following and have established credibility and trust within their niche. Collaborating with influencers and brand ambassadors can provide restaurants with an effective way to tap into their existing fan base and leverage their influence to promote their establishment. Influencers can create engaging content featuring the restaurant's offerings, share personal experiences, and provide recommendations. This type of collaboration increases visibility and adds credibility to the restaurant's brand, as Gen Z consumers often rely on the opinions and recommendations of influencers they trust.

C. Encouraging user-generated content and engagement:

Gen Z values authenticity and peer recommendations. Encouraging user-generated content (UGC) can be a powerful tool for restaurants to engage with this generation. By encouraging customers to share their dining experiences, photos, and reviews on social media, restaurants can amplify their reach and generate buzz. UGC also creates a sense of community and involvement as customers become active participants in shaping the restaurant's online presence. Engaging with user-generated content by liking, commenting, and sharing can foster a sense of connection and loyalty with Gen Z customers.

Additionally, restaurants can run social media contests, polls, or interactive campaigns to encourage engagement and create a two-way conversation with Gen Z consumers. By listening to their feedback, responding to their comments, and incorporating their preferences into future offerings, restaurants can build a strong relationship with this generation and show their opinions are valued.

By utilising social media platforms correctly, you can leverage the power of social media, creating a dynamic and interactive online presence that resonates with this digitally savvy generation.

Tips to Enhance Dining Experience for Gen Z

Now that we know all of that, let’s look into how to enhance the dining experience for Gen Z:

A. Incorporating technology and automation:

Integrating technology and automation into the restaurant experience can significantly enhance efficiency and convenience for the restaurant and Gen Z customers. Self-ordering kiosks, tableside ordering tablets, or mobile ordering apps allow customers to browse the menu, customise their orders, and make payments seamlessly. This reduces wait times, streamlines the ordering process, and gives Gen Z customers more control over their dining experience. Additionally, technologies like digital menu boards or interactive displays can showcase menu items, promotions, and nutritional information in a visually appealing and engaging manner.

B. Implementing seamless online ordering and delivery services:

Gen Z customers value convenience and flexibility, making seamless online ordering and delivery services essential. Restaurants should invest in user-friendly online platforms or mobile apps that allow Gen Z consumers to easily browse menus, place orders, and select delivery or pickup options. Integrating real-time order tracking and delivery updates adds transparency and improves the overall customer experience. By providing these services, restaurants cater to the on-demand lifestyle of Gen Z and increase their accessibility and convenience.

C. Creating unique and Instagrammable restaurant designs:

The visual appeal of a restaurant is increasingly important to Gen Z customers. Creating unique and Instagrammable restaurant designs can attract this generation and encourage them to share their experiences on social media. Attention to detail in the decor, lighting, and overall ambience can make a restaurant stand out and create memorable moments worth capturing and sharing. Restaurants can incorporate trendy or eye-catching elements, artistic murals, or aesthetically pleasing plating techniques to enhance the visual appeal and create an environment that resonates with Gen Z's desire for unique and shareable experiences.

D. Providing excellent customer service and engagement:

Exceptional customer service and engagement are paramount in enhancing the dining experience for Gen Z customers. This generation values personalised interactions and authenticity. Restaurants should train their staff to provide friendly and attentive service, catering to individual preferences and needs. Active engagement on social media platforms and prompt responses to customer inquiries and feedback further strengthen the relationship between the restaurant and its Gen Z customers. By making them feel heard and valued, restaurants can foster loyalty and positive word-of-mouth recommendations among this influential consumer segment.

By incorporating technology and automation, implementing seamless online ordering and delivery services, creating unique and Instagrammable restaurant designs, and providing excellent customer service and engagement, restaurants can elevate the dining experience for Gen Z customers. These strategies align with Gen Z's preferences for convenience, visual appeal, and personalised interactions, resulting in a memorable and satisfying dining experience that encourages repeat visits and positive online engagement.

Building Brand Loyalty among Gen Z

And finally, once you’ve brought Gen Zs to your restaurant, let’s talk about building brand loyalty among them.

A. Engaging with Gen Z through loyalty programs and rewards:

Loyalty programs and rewards play a significant role in attracting and retaining Gen Z customers. This generation appreciates being recognised and rewarded for their loyalty. Restaurants can implement loyalty programs that offer exclusive perks, discounts, or freebies to encourage repeat visits and engagement. Digital loyalty programs, integrated with mobile apps or online accounts, allow Gen Z consumers to easily track their rewards and redeem them, enhancing convenience and reinforcing the value of their patronage. By offering tangible incentives and personalised experiences through loyalty programs, restaurants can foster a sense of belonging and build lasting relationships with Gen Z customers.

B. Implementing gamification and interactive elements:

Gen Z is known for their affinity for gamification and interactive experiences. Restaurants can tap into this by incorporating gamification elements into their loyalty programs or overall dining experience. This can include challenges, competitions, or point systems that unlock achievements or rewards. Gamified experiences provide entertainment and create excitement, competition, and achievement, which resonates with Gen Z's desire for engaging and memorable experiences. By making the dining experience interactive and fun, restaurants can capture and sustain Gen Z's attention and loyalty.

C. Supporting social causes and community involvement:

Gen Z is passionate about social issues and values brands that commit to social causes and community involvement. Restaurants can align with these values by actively supporting social initiatives, donating a portion of their profits to charitable organisations, or participating in community events. By communicating these efforts transparently, restaurants can connect with Gen Z customers on a deeper level, demonstrating their shared values and creating a positive brand image. Gen Z consumers are more likely to support and remain loyal to restaurants that actively contribute to causes they care about, fostering a sense of purpose and positively impacting the community.

Gen Z customers appreciate being recognised, entertained, and empowered to make a difference. By providing personalised rewards, creating interactive experiences, and aligning with their values, restaurants can establish a strong emotional connection and cultivate long-term loyalty among Gen Z consumers.


This article explored several strategies to attract and cater to Gen Z customers in the restaurant industry. These strategies include understanding their characteristics and values, leveraging technology and social media, offering unique experiences, prioritising sustainability, providing customisation options, incorporating healthier and plant-based choices, and enhancing the overall dining experience through seamless online ordering, interactive elements, and excellent customer service. By implementing these strategies, restaurants can tap into Gen Z's preferences and capture their attention and loyalty.

The importance of adapting to evolving consumer preferences:

The preferences and habits of Gen Z consumers are continuously evolving, driven by technological advancements and shifting cultural values. Restaurants must stay abreast of these changes and adapt their strategies accordingly. By keeping a pulse on emerging trends, leveraging new technologies, and actively listening to customer feedback, restaurants can remain relevant and provide experiences that resonate with Gen Z's evolving preferences. Adapting to changing consumer preferences ensures that restaurants stay competitive and maintain their appeal to this influential consumer segment.

Tap into Gen Z's spending power for long-term success:

Gen Z represents a generation with significant spending power and influence. Their choices and preferences can significantly impact the success and growth of restaurants. By understanding and catering to their unique characteristics, leveraging technology, offering personalised experiences, and aligning with their values, restaurants can tap into Gen Z's spending power and build long-term relationships with this valuable consumer segment. Investing in strategies that resonate with Gen Z leads to immediate business growth and establishes a foundation for sustained success in the future.

In conclusion, the restaurant industry has much to gain by targeting and engaging Gen Z customers. By implementing the strategies discussed in this article, restaurants can create appealing dining experiences, foster loyalty, and tap into the significant spending power of Gen Z. Adapting to evolving consumer preferences and staying attuned to their values ensures that restaurants can build a strong presence in this dynamic and influential market, leading to long-term success and growth.

Jessica Fernandes

Jessica graduated from St. Xavier's College in Mumbai, India, with a degree in Advertising. Jessica is a writer with a passion for creative expression, and she is driven by her curiosity about the world and her desire to use her words to provoke thought, evoke emotions, and inspire change. She hopes to have a lasting impact on all her readers.

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