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Tracking the Latest Gen Z Food Trends in 2024

Tyler MartinezAuthor

What are Gen Z food trends?

Gen Z can be a demanding generation of eaters. And as they come into adulthood, tracking and catering to Gen Z food trends and their growing spending power may be critical to winning their business.

Some of these food trends and expectations include menu items that are healthy, sustainable, and affordable, and readily available on demand.

In this article, you will learn some of the latest Gen Z food trends that restaurant owners should consider when developing their menus and restaurant concepts.

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Who are Generation Z and what are their food preferences?

Gen Zers, composed of 18 to 24-year-olds, are the newest generation to reach adulthood.

Their preferences and eating habits are slightly different than that of Millennials. Gen Z is focused on sustainability, health, and wellness. Their food choices are more likely than any previous generation to embrace flexitarian eating habits — on-and-off vegan or vegetarian lifestyles.

Convenience is another deciding factor when it comes to Gen Z food habits. The economic uncertainty of the pandemic that marked the start of their adult lives has influenced their purchases. Gen Z is working hard to get through college and begin their careers, so quick and easy eats are in high demand.

Overall, Gen Z wants food that fits their lifestyles. Gen Z is likely to stick to eating patterns that omit certain foods, such as sugary or highly processed items.

What are some characteristics of Gen Z?

Gen Z is known for being tech-savvy and constantly connected online. They’re also shaping up to be a hard-working generation.

In a 2023 presentation by CocaCola at The National Restaurant Show, it was revealed that 46.5% of working Gen Z employees have at least 1.5 jobs, if not 21. Due to their busy lifestyles, Gen Z customers are more likely to opt for menu items that they can conveniently enjoy on the go.

This on-the-go mentality also influences their social media preferences. Gen Z gravitates towards quick, shorter content — which may require restaurants to shift their marketing strategies. They tend to trust organic content more than paid advertisements and value authenticity.

In addition, Gen Z has a more holistic view of health. Unlike millennials or Gen X members who primarily focus on physical fitness, Gen Z associates "health" with overall wellness, including mental health and nutrition. They actively seek out restaurants that prioritize sustainability, environmental impact, and utilize locally sourced ingredients.

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Monetize these Gen Z food trends to help increase restaurant sales in 2024

Here are some top Gen Z food trends to help restaurant operators increase sales with this burgeoning new customer base.

Speed of service

Speed of service is a top priority for Gen Z restaurant-goers, according to respondents of a general population survey conducted by Toast.

Restaurants targeting Gen Z diners and even younger demographics may want to consider quicker service models, such as Toast’s New Steps of Service, to get guests in and out quickly.

Sustainability

For Gen Z, environmental sustainability is one of the top political and economic issues of the time. 

According to Food Insight, a third (33%) of Gen Z responded that sustainability had an impact on their decisions to buy foods and beverages. Half of the Gen Z respondents (50%) agreed that their individual choices have an impact on the environment.

Environmental sustainability in the food industry starts with production. In restaurants, purchasing locally produced or grown ingredients has a major impact on the carbon footprint of each dish. Gen Z wants to know where the foods they buy are sourced and how they’re produced. 

Plant-based alternatives

Plant-based alternatives for animal products and meat are popular with Gen Z. In fact, 19% of Gen Z reported that they embrace plant-based eating habits. Many plant-based ingredients are more environmentally sustainable as well. Farming cattle for dairy products and beef releases lots of greenhouse gas methane into the environment.

Technological advancements are innovating substitutes that appeal to consumers. Even fast food chains are embracing meat alternatives thanks to demand from younger generations. 

Health-conscious

As the youngest generation, Gen Z is naturally healthy. The amount of information available about healthy eating via internet access is higher than ever before. And social media trends often promote nutritious, fresh eating.

Gen Z is conscious of eating foods that bolster their physical and mental health, with a focus on digestive and gut health. They look for menu items made with organic, fresh, and sustainable ingredients.

Reliable information

Because they were raised with the internet, Gen Z is wary of information that they find online. They’re likely to conduct their own research to verify health and nutrition information. As much as they embrace social media food influencers and bloggers, Gen Z is just as quick to be critical.

Online ordering

Since much of Gen Z entered adulthood during the pandemic, online ordering became natural. From Ghost kitchens that provide restaurant quality delivery and online ordering for pickup at grocery stores, Gen Z is accustomed to saving time and social distancing with online ordering.

Ordering online saves time, too, and convenience is important to Gen Z. As they navigate working and going to college during economic uncertainty, Gen Z feels pressed for time. They turn to online ordering as a way to access good food and beverages on their tight schedules.

Social media-inspired foodie eats

Social media outlets like Instagram have been around for most of Gen Z’s lives. They often discover new dining experiences through social media advertising, and love to chase the newest TikTok or Instagram food trends. Gen Z customers are likely to post about their dining experiences on their social media platforms as well, making them a desirable but difficult-to-impress consumer base.

Authentic global cuisine

Another result of social media access is a desire for authentic global cuisine. Gen Z is the most diverse American generation. They aren’t afraid of trying new cuisines.

Authenticity isn’t just about the food itself though. Everything from branding to atmosphere to aesthetic works to create an “authentic” experience. 

New takes on basics

It’s no secret that young people can be picky eaters. Which is why burgers, sandwiches, pizza, smoothies, and salads are perennially popular. So is customizability. Fast casual “build your own” restaurants are a hit with Gen Z. They provide options for everyone, and let people build dishes to their preferences.

Capitalizing on Gen Z food trends to build a customer base for the future

Gen Z is shaping the food industry through their food preferences and dining habits.

Plant-based menus, hyper-local and sustainable sourcing, comfort foods with unique twists, snackification, and global flavor fusion are just a few of the Gen Z food trends that savvy restaurant owners and operators should tap into. 

As this generation becomes a more significant part of the restaurant market, understanding and catering to their culinary needs can help restaurants to stay competitive and attract and retain their Gen Z guests.

Gen Z is a demanding generation of eaters. And as they come into adulthood, securing their allegiance will prove essential to food service businesses. Use these food trends to attract Gen Z customers.

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