Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers total about 74% of the U.S. population—and make up the bulk of today's foodservice consumers. Technomic Inc., Chicago, recently examined the needs and behaviors of each generation—including the firm’s first look at Generation Z—to uncover a number of differences and similarities by cohort.

Technomic says Gen Z, the first true digital generation, represents the future foodservice consumer. They're a generation on the move that strongly prioritizes speed of service, technology, and having what they want, when they want it. Millennials, more so than older generations, prefer to visit restaurants that offer new and unique foods and flavors. Gen X and Boomers converge on several preferences—such as the importance of a convenient location.

"Each generational group may have distinctly different foodservice needs, yet there are opportunities to leverage their similarities and target specific customer groups without alienating others," says Sara Monnette, senior director, consumer insights of Technomic. "Regardless of the generation, it's vital for restaurant operators and suppliers to understand their core audience. So whether you're working to appeal to your Boomer base through dine-in ambiance or traditional menu offerings, or drawing in younger guests with faster service and an innovative menu, successful execution can begin with identifying and addressing what each group values as a generation."

To help foodservice executives understand the latest behaviors, preferences and attitudes of consumers across the generational spectrum, Technomic has published an update of its Generational Consumer Trend Report. Interesting findings include:

  • Gen Zers and Millennials tend to be more optimistic about and reliant on foodservice: they're more likely than older generations to anticipate increases in foodservice visits in the next year.
  • Dining-format preferences vary by generation: of all generations, Boomers are most likely to visit restaurants for dine-in, Gen Z are most likely to order takeout, and Millennials are most likely to opt for delivery.
  • Speedy service is key for the youngest generation: for example, Gen Z places the highest importance on fast service at limited-service restaurants (54%), compared to just two-fifths of Millennials (40%), Gen Xers (41%) and Baby Boomers (43%). 

Technomic says its Generational Consumer Trend Report provides comprehensive research on the latest consumer trends as they apply to generational groups, organized into the following sections:

  • Generational Overview—uses Technomic's own extensive research, as well as secondary data sources, to define generational groups and uncover key statistics related to population, ethnicity, employment and financial situation, and lifestyle.
  • Generational Comparison—discusses findings related to foodservice behavior, purchasing decisions and attitudes across the four generations.
  • Highlights for Each Generation—provides in-depth analysis and key findings that are specific for each generational group—Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers.
  • Outlook: Trends to Watch—explores several emerging trends that are poised to further gain traction among foodservice consumers across generations.


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