CHICAGO -- Although consumers’ dining preferences might vary generationally, there’s one force that is shaping everyone regardless of age: the passage of time. As consumers turn over one milestone after the other, what they need from retail foodservice is also evolving, according to Technomic’s 2018 Generational Consumer Trend Report.
“It’s interesting to see where generations align and where there are stark differences,” said Anne Mills, senior manager of consumer insights for Technomic, Chicago. “Across all ages, consumers are more willing to pay a higher price for items described as fresh, scratch-made and real. In terms of differences, millennials are choosier parents than other generations have been and want all-natural, organic foods for themselves as well as their kids. In older generations such as baby boomers, on the other hand, we are seeing a very slight decline in foodservice visits but interest in prepared foods, opening up opportunities for grocery and convenience stores.”
Check out how these changes are forging the future of c-store foodservice.
The younger generations’ love of dining out is likely not just a phase. About 23% of millennials patronize a foodservice destination four or more times a week, with Gen Z not far behind at 20%, according to the report. With that kind of frequency, these young people are likely forming a dependency on restaurants that will continue as they get older.
For Gen Z, it’s not only about the convenience of away-from-home foodservice. They also have a need for speed. Gen Zers are eating on the go more than any other generation—nearly one-third say they don’t have a choice but to eat on the run.
The image of millennials following a trail of Edison light bulbs to the next foodservice destination is somewhat limiting and outdated. Many millennials are not just making food choices for themselves but also their children. For this group of millennial parents, upscale kids menus are the biggest traffic drivers. About 44% said they would visit a restaurant more often if they updated kids menus with more sophisticated options, according to the report.
Simplicity is key
Members of Gen X are more likely than the other generations to say they are struggling to make ends meet, according to the report. As low-income Americans continue to have less purchasing power, creating deals with high-value perceptions will be crucial to appeal to this demographic.
Baby boomers, on the other hand, are often working well after the typical retirement age and have substantial disposable incomes; however, boomers view dining out as a special occasion. So the generation has the highest expectations for food taste and quality, according to the report. Focusing on other fundamentals, such as cleanliness is also crucial to winning over boomers, 63% of which think cleanliness is very important, compared to 55% of millennials.