4 Ways to Meet Consumers' Varying Foodservice Needs

Technology meets younger generations’ love for customizability and quality

The convenience-store industry’s curiosity surrounding what millennials want and how they want it continues to surge. And as answers emerge, new questions arise for the subsequent generation.

Students eating pizza

The millennial and Gen Z generations are large, and their opinions are nuanced but strong. Gen Z’s habits and needs are taking shape as they age into their spending power. And though their needs are varied, both generations share a desire for customizable food that’s prepared when they order.

According to SmartBrief, “Millennials love customizing, and customize everything from apparel to music to news feeds.” Similarly, “Gen Z is do-it-yourself oriented. … They’re interested in opportunities to customize their food,” according to a recent report from CSP.

The secret to meeting the needs of these generations is to create opportunities for customization within your fresh-prepared foodservice program and use equipment that can keep up with generations who demand instant gratification.

1. Toppings: Build your foodservice program around foods that are inherently customizable. A customer craving pizza, sandwiches, paninis, quesadillas or flatbreads will expect to be in control of their own toppings before they walk in the door. According to the Technomic 2015 Flavor Consumer Trend Report, more than 50% of millennials prefer mashups and combinations of different flavors, so expect them to switch up their customization with every visit. Meet their expectations by offering an array of freshly made produce and protein toppings, as well as on-trend sauces such as Sriracha, chimichurri or chipotle mayo.

2. Bowls: Younger generations love bowls because they are customizable and showcase a protein without the carbs of a burrito. “As diners continue to look for personalized plates, the build-your-own-bowl trend offers an attractive alternative,” according to Packaged Facts. Bowls featuring made-to-order proteins and freshly roasted vegetables feed consumers’ desire for food that’s fresh, fast and tailored to their needs. 

3. Combos: Creating the opportunity for customers to mix and match allows them to customize their healthy-to-indulgent ratio. Gen Z “[likes] indulgent foods such as frozen carbonated beverages, doughnuts and pizza, but they also want healthy options such as cereal, fruit and yogurt,” according to CSP. Made-to-order dishes such as nachos give customers the option to control the ratio of healthy and indulgent. They can also opt in for ingredients such as habanero or ghost peppers, both gaining popularity as “spicy” grew on convenience-store menus by 14% last year, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor.

4. Speed: Young generations know what they want and they want it now; speed is an attractive quality to this generation, which seeks instant gratification. But how is it possible to deliver on speed when 57% of Gen Zers, according to CSP, are more inclined to buy from a convenience store if their food is high quality? The key is to invest in cooking equipment, such as a ventless, hoodless Ovention Matchbox Oven, that promises both speed and fresh-made quality. 

A foodservice program that meets the customizability needs of its guests isn’t possible without equipment that can cook high-quality food quickly. Brian Donoghue, director of foodservice for Wiegel Stores Inc., does just this using an Ovention Matchbox 1718 Oven. He said that using this oven “is a fresher way of preparing food, and it’s a couple-minute transaction.” The stores’ open kitchen adds to the customer’s involved food customization experience because they can “see the oven. … It’s got a cool, hip, ‘wow-factor’ to it,” Donoghue said.

Ovention’s Precision Impingement technology can shave cook times from 15 minutes to just two and a half for a freshly baked pizza with customized, customer-selected toppings. This award-winning technology is primed to satisfy hungry millennials and Gen Z consumers with fresh food made fast. 

This post is sponsored by Ovention