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How has COVID-19 eaten into Gen Z’s health-conscious habits?

by Christina Germano
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    Generation Z’s health-conscious approach to life is well-documented. From eating well-balanced, plant-forward diets to exercising at least a few times a week, this generation has shown a commitment to staying healthy.

    Mental health is an important part of the health-conscious picture: 72 percent of Gen Z say that managing stress and mental health is their most important concern when it comes to wellness. In the time of COVID-19, when routines have been disrupted and access to healthy food is not as convenient as it once was, habits are changing for everybody—including the youngest generation.

    How COVID-19 has impacted Gen Z's healthy routines

    Although some Gen Zs may have ignored COVID-19 warnings as they swarmed beaches for spring break, they have since become more serious about avoiding group gatherings. They plan to continue avoiding large groups, travel, and gyms for several months, even as quarantine comes to a close in some areas. Fitness clubs and gyms were once a pre-COVID hotspot for Zs, with Millennials and Gen Zs making up a whopping 80 percent of all people who have club memberships.

    With 87 percent of them visiting the gym at least three times per week, Gen Z was the most active group prior to stay-at-home measures. However, prior to COVID-19, Gen Z was already active on fitness apps and websites. As digital natives, this crew readily uses apps and other online sources for all types of content, including workouts at home. Along with Millennials, they account for 89 percent of users of app-based or online workouts. 

    Unable to go to school and having faced widespread layoffs, Gen Z is using this downtime to take on personal fitness challenges. Not surprisingly, Snapchat, one of Gen Z’s favorite platforms, has seen a spike in fitness and wellness content. It seems that although they can’t stick to their typical gym routines, Gen Z is still finding ways to stay fit.

    How COVID-19 has impacted Gen Z’s healthy diets

    Before COVID-19 changed the way we live, 78 percent of Gen Z survey respondents said that, other than tuition and bills, they spent the majority of their money on food. Not surprisingly, 93 percent of these young folks were more likely to try a restaurant that offered discounts (which is one reason we work hard to keep those food and drink coupons coming). 

    With even more limited budgets these days, this generation's desire for a good bargain isn't likely to change anytime soon. Sadly, many of their favorite fast-casual restaurants are no longer an option, at least not in the on-the-fly way they once were. This really changes the eating out game for Gen Z, as prior to COVID-19, only 5 percent of them planned their meals in advance. 

    With more limited restaurant options these days, many Zs have taken to cooking. As the generation with the least exposure to home-cooked meals in their childhoods, Gen Z wasn't necessarily prepared to step seamlessly into the kitchen. However, about 68 percent of young people said that they would like to spend more time preparing food at home, so this moment might be a pivotal point in forging new habits.

    What restaurants are doing to help keep Gen Z health-conscious

    For Gen Zers who want to have their take-out and be healthy too, restaurants have an opportunity to fill the gap. Domino’s pizza is crushing it with a custom contactless delivery solution— even if they're not the most health-conscious brand, which might limit the number of orders per week Gen Zs are likely to make.

    Food for thought: Learn more about Gen Z's dining preferences in our report Gen  Z Insights: What restaurants need to know.Fast-casual superstar and Gen Z favorite Chipotle has made it easy for customers to safely get healthy, plant-forward food. Chipotle knows how well students respond to geo-targeted BOGO promotions and that those offers translate to in-store purchases. So, they recently upped their game on digital ordering options. Customers can now order online and with voice commands using Alexa, and delivery is always free, which is a major plus for this financially-savvy generation.

    One of its quick-pivot solutions includes keeping younger customers engaged with Chipotle Together, a daily virtual Zoom hangout with celebrity guests. The brand appeals to Gen Z by helping the community with its Burritos for Heroes program, which gets free food to frontline healthcare workers. Chipotle is also boosting revenue and giving back with gift cards by donating 10 percent to Direct Relief. This fast response from the marketing team has kept Chipotle’s business booming and creating even more loyal Gen Z customers. 

    Times have changed, but Gen Z has not

    COVID-19 has already changed Gen Z habits, and they will inevitably continue to evolve. What hasn’t changed is the desire to stay healthy, maintaining connections through social media platforms, and loyalty to brands that resonate with their values. Tapping into these habits will help your brand become a Gen Z fave. To learn more about the Gen Z habits than can help inform your marketing strategy, download our Restaurant Report today.

    GZI - Gen Z is hungry for new food options. Learn what restaurants need to know

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