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Generational Preferences in Foodservice

Every American falls into a generational category; the generation dependent on the individual’s birth year. Alive today range from the Greatest Generation, the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Gen Z. Generations form through common experiences and current events that shape the individuals in their age group. For example, the Vietnam War significantly impacted the Baby Boomers, while technology impacted their Millennial children. In general, generations each have certain preferences in which they base their consumer behavior. Scholars spend time studying these behaviors to assist the manufacturer or business owner. Different generational preferences include fashion, entertainment, language, work ethic, spending habits and even food.

The Older Generational Preferences

Restaurants must take note of generational preferences in food and dining out. However, Baby Boomers are usually the oldest generation eating out. The consumer’s generation heavily influences the choice of when and where to eat out, as well as what to purchase.  Many factors influence these preferences including free time, finances and children. Baby Boomers usually dine at the traditional restaurants that sell comfort food. According to an article written by Rita Negrete, this generation also eats out at more full-service restaurant than any other. However, do not assume this generation has the largest bill. Generation X spends the most money on a night out. These individuals do not worry about menu price. This stat is likely due to the fact that this generation has a generally high household income with steady jobs. They also prefer restaurants that promote authenticity and upscale items.

The Younger Generational Preferences

The largest gap between generations in regards to dining preferences is likely between Generation X and Millennials. Millennials tend to dine out for the experience rather than the food. To Millennials, restaurants serve as a social setting more than anything else. A Bloomberg.com article speculates that the Millennials are the reason that last year, dining out sales passed grocery sales for the first time in American history. Millennials flock to restaurants that offer something unique or authentic and serve food boasting natural and fresh labels.  Millennials are one a larger generation, second to Baby Boomers, so scholars suggest paying close attention to their dining preferences. Generation Z, very similar to Millennials, enjoy restaurants that provide natural, unprocessed, or sustainable food. Scholars consider Gen Z the digital generation, they love online ordering and digital marketing.

Each generation has the ability to influence food trends, menu items and restaurant products.  Many studies take into account generational eating habits and describe important factors that influence these habits. Consider these studies when planning and creating menus and marketing pieces for your restaurant.