Narrowing the Spot Where the Generations Converge

Technomic study uncovers similarities in consumers’ eating decisions

Millennials' spending habits

CHICAGO -- Generation Z, millennials, generation X and baby boomers total about 74% of the U.S. population—and make up the bulk of today's foodservice consumers. Technomic recently examined the needs and behaviors of each generation, including its very first look at generation Z, to uncover a number of differences and similarities by cohort.

Gen Z, the first true digital generation, represents the future foodservice consumer. They're a generation on the move that strongly prioritizes speed of service, technology and having what they want, when they want it. Millennials, more so than older generations, prefer to visit restaurants that offer new and unique foods and flavors. Gen X and boomers converge on several preferences—such as the importance of a convenient location.

"Each generational group may have distinctly different foodservice needs, yet there are opportunities to leverage their similarities and target specific customer groups without alienating others," said Sara Monnette, senior director, consumer insights of Technomic Inc. "Regardless of the generation, it's vital for restaurant operators and suppliers to understand their core audience. So whether you're working to appeal to your boomer base through dine-in ambiance or traditional menu offerings, or drawing in younger guests with faster service and an innovative menu, successful execution can begin with identifying and addressing what each group values as a generation."

To help foodservice executives understand the latest behaviors, preferences and attitudes of consumers across the generational spectrum, Technomic has published an update of its Generational Consumer Trend Report. Interesting findings include:

  • Gen Zers and millennials tend to be more optimistic about and reliant on foodservice. They're more likely than older generations to anticipate increases in foodservice visits in the next year.
  • Dining-format preferences vary by generation. Of all generations, boomers are most likely to visit restaurants for dine-in, gen Z is most likely to order takeout, and millennials are most likely to opt for delivery.
  • Speedy service is key for the youngest generation. For example, Gen Z places the highest importance on fast service at limited-service restaurants (54%), compared to just two-fifths of millennials (40%), gen Xers (41%) and baby boomers (43%).

Meanwhile, Technomic reported that millennials are a generation on the go, looking for convenience in all aspects of the foodservice occasion, including format. Here, a Consumer Flash infographic displays millennials’ affinity for grab-and-go options, perfect for a meal on the run.

Technomic, Chicago, provides comprehensive global information, analysis and insights to food industry executives through high-quality, fact-based consulting, market research, online databases, tracking services and industry events.