—Fast casual menus are more aligned with Gen Z’s food preferences and values

Chicago, September 14, 2022 —Older Gen Zs, ages 18-24, in the U.S. are discerning when choosing restaurants. Although price matters to this group, their taste preferences and definition of value dictate the type of restaurants they visit, reports The NPD Group. As a result, Gen Zs skew towards quick service restaurants, particularly fast casual, that balance value and focused menu.  

In the 12 months ending July 2022, Gen Zs made 5 billion restaurant visits, 4.3 billion visits were to quick service restaurants, and 736 million were to full service restaurants. Overall quick service traffic was flat compared to a year ago, while Gen Zs fast casual visits were up 4% in the period compared to a year ago. Gen Zs favor major fast casual chains that provide the menu items they want, value for the money, and messaging that reflects their interests, like organics and sustainability, according to NPD’s recently released Winning Gen Z Consumers study. 

When deciding to eat out, Gen Zs choose the food they want before the restaurant. Many are seeking more from their restaurant foods and beverages, including local, low-calorie, organic, sustainable, and plant-based options. Classic menu items, like burgers and chicken options that are unique, craveable, and can’t be replicated at home, appeal to this group. Snack-oriented foods, bottled water, and non-carbonated soft drinks are also popular with Gen Zs. Chicken sandwich offerings are essential to Gen Zs, particularly those with value price points or a spicy profile, says NPD, which recently merged with Information Resources, Inc. (IRI®) to create a leading global technology, analytics and data provider.                                                                   

“Now is the time to reach these young adults as they enter their peak restaurant usage stage,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Restaurant operators can differentiate their brand with Gen Zs by focusing on creative spins on classic foods, engaging relevant messaging, and generating value beyond price.”

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