The pandemic, more competition for their dollars, and rising prices keep Gen Zs’ restaurant visits lower

Chicago, June 28, 2022 — The oldest among Generation Zs are 18 to 24 years old, an age group that, historically, is entering the heaviest restaurant usage stage, but history may not repeat itself with this generation, reports The NPD Group. Twenty years ago, when Gen Xers were young adults, they averaged 284 visits per person a year. Millennials, as young adults, were impacted by the Great Recession, causing a cutback in 40 restaurant visits per person a year versus their older Gen X counterparts. Gen Z young adults, whose outside recreation, like restaurant visits, was thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic, made 218 annual restaurant visits per person the 12 months through February 2022, 66 visits less than Gen Xers in 2002, according to NPD’s recently released Winning Gen Z Consumers.

The pandemic isn’t the only factor keeping Gen Zs from restaurants; they have more interests vying for their dollars than previous generations, finds the NPD report that advises foodservice operators and manufacturers on how to appeal to Gen Zs. Apparel, footwear, beauty, and technology are among the categories on which young adult Gen Zs spend their money. The report points out that many apparel brands have successfully tapped into Gen Z values, like diversity and empowerment, and, as a result, have gained a larger share of their spending.    

Increased spending on categories like apparel and overall inflationary pressures have heightened Gen Z’s price sensitivity. Half of the Gen Zs surveyed by NPD for the report said that higher menu prices had impacted their restaurant visits. Price is the most important attribute among consumers 18 to 24 years old when choosing a restaurant, reports NPD. Student loan debt because of the forbearance of government-backed student loans hasn’t factored into Gen Z spending but will once the forbearance lifts.

“Restaurant operators and their manufacturer partners must quickly adapt to how Gen Z consumers think and feel,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “An understanding of which menu items to emphasize, the food attributes they seek, menu innovations that appeal to them, and their preferred advertising platforms will help you win the favor of this valuable generation.”

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