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Gen Z trends: tailoring your menu for the new generation

Older members of Generation Z are now entering their late teens and early twenties, making them an increasingly important foodservice consumer demographic. If you want to win their business, you’ll need to understand their preferences, cravings, and values.

Here are our experts’ suggestions for tailoring your offering to attract Gen Z diners, based on the industry's data and trends.

Catering your menu to Generation Z food trends

The Gen Z cohort was born between 1997 and 2010; the oldest members are currently 24 years old. Gen Z is mostly students and young professionals, and they have specific preferences that differ from other generations. What do they crave?

  • Comfort food is a staple in their diets: 49% are buying more comfort food now than they did before 2020, with a special preference for cheesy dishes and nostalgic recipes.

  • Since Gen Z enjoys tasting different things and sharing with friends, 23% prefer to build a meal around appetizers or snack foods. Their favourite snacks are comfort food (35%), grab-and-go (28%), healthier options (25%), and ready-to-eat meals (24%).

    For lunch, consider a “bento box” format that contains small portions of different dishes. You can also offer unique drink options like this Peanut Butter Banana Split Shake with Joyya Ultrafiltered Milk inspiration.

  • 42% of Gen Z consumers look for menu items inspired by street food. These dishes are a great way to transform trendy grab-and-go breakfasts, lunches, and snacks into more decadent finger food type dishes. Think grilled cheese sandwiches, poutines, rolls, tacos, and calzones.

    Spicy is also among Gen Z’s top 5 most popular flavours. You can tap into this preference by using our Havarti or Monterey Jack with Jalapeño cheeses to make crowd-pleasing dishes like this spicy bacon grilled cheese inspiration.

  • Almost half of Gen Zers are willing to pay more for healthier food, like salads or vegetable-centric dishes. Try reinventing classic dishes using lots of veggies, like this spicy sweet potato nachos inspiration.

  • Sharing food pictures on social media is key to the Gen Z dining experience, and many people actually choose a restaurant based on the photogenic potential of its dishes! Attract this portion of the Gen Z base by posting beautiful food pictures on your social pages, website, and menu.

  • 48% of Gen Zers prefer restaurants and cafeterias that are transparent about their menu items, like listing allergens and preparation practices. Take this opportunity to showcase the story behind your restaurant, while pointing out allergy-conscious ingredients like Swiss cheese (without lactose) and goat cheese (lactose-reduced) for people with special dietary needs.

A little creativity goes a long way 

While there is no shortage of menu trends specific to Gen Z, you don’t need to overhaul your entire menu to make them happy! Here are some creative ideas that remix dishes and ingredients you may already have in your kitchen.

  • Pizza remains an extremely popular staple among Gen Z, especially given their love for comfort food. Crank up the decadence factor with this all-star triple-cheese pizza  inspiration!

  • Vegan dishes are the trendiest menu items for Gen Z. This generation is more likely to incorporate vegetarian and vegan options into their diet, and 79% are choosing to go meatless at least once or twice a week. A good way to cater to this crowd, while also providing options for lactose intolerant diners, is incorporating our Dairy-Free Mozzarella Flavoured Shred on your menu.

  • For experimental Gen Zers, international cuisines—like Indian, Asian, and Middle Eastern—are a strong opportunity for innovation. Try adding some international flair to familiar recipes, like this tangy sour cream hummus inspiration!
As Gen Z comes of age, the profile of the average foodservice consumer is evolving. Keeping these trends in mind means broadening your potential consumer base without having to expand your menu significantly—experiment with a few changes that play off your existing offering, and see how the market responds! 


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Source: Technomic’s Canadian May 2020 Omnibus consumer survey data

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