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Gen Z Insights

Your source for the latest Gen Z marketing trends and perspectives, presented by UNiDAYS.

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What's on the menu for Gen Z this holiday season?

by Christina Germano
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    Whether it’s turkey, tabbouleh, turmeric, or tofu, Gen Z has room in its heart (and stomach) for all of it this holiday season—and beyond. 

    Let’s begin with three facts about Gen Z: they’re the most diverse generation in American history, they’re food lovers, and they value traditions, especially around the holidays. These facts—though seemingly random—will set the table for Gen Z’s food preferences this holiday season and in 2020.

    As 2019 wraps up, Gen Zers won’t be likely to banish age-old American holiday traditions (turkeys are here to stay!) so much as they will vastly expand upon them. For Gen Z, it’s important to have a food menu that’s just as diverse and ‘woke’ as they are. So, if you’re in the restaurant business, here are a few quick tips to help you keep Gen Z fed this winter break and beyond.

    Diversity is the new normal for Gen Z’s holiday menus

    Make no mistake, Zs value traditions and still flock to holiday stalwarts like turkey and chestnut stuffing. But the diversity of their backgrounds makes international holiday menu options just as appealing. You’ll often see this play out at Friendsgiving and Friendsmas parties, where potluck meals invite guests to bring dishes that reflect their diverse backgrounds.

    What’s on the menu at my Friendsmas party this year? Italian baked ziti, Jewish latkes, German Christmas cookies, and Armenian baklava.

    Restaurant tip: Keep those classic pumpkin pies at the ready, but try your hand at some unique dishes. Build “Friendsgiving” or “Friendsmas” menus that Zs can enjoy whether they’re dining in or taking out. 

    Look like “a snaccc” with smaller portions

    Zs love to snack. So much in fact, that their generation actually popularized the phrase “looking like a snack”. Typically speaking, Gen Zers aren’t into having food comas; they’re more the snacking types. 

    Indeed, a recent study finds that Gen Z favors snacking more than previous generations by an overwhelming 53 percent. Which makes good sense when you consider it: Snacks are easy to prepare and appeal to the practical nature of a mobile-first generation that feels they are forever on-the-go. There’s also a health-conscious aspect to Gen Z’s snack habit. Snacking throughout the day can provide you with round-the-clock energy that doesn’t dissipate like it would after consuming a larger meal.

    Restaurant tip: Holiday food traditions tend to be famous for their huge-scale meals. But sometimes a belly-busting meal isn’t part of the plan for Gen Z. Prepare your holiday menus accordingly, with smaller and average-sized options alike. Tapas, anyone?

    Health doesn’t hide during the holidays

    And you thought Millennials were picky when it came to food preparation! Turns out there’s a new food critic in town, and it goes by the name of Gen Z. When it comes to holiday eats, Gen Z likes to keep things real (and preferably non-G.M.O) even more than their pioneering, farm-to-table Millennial predecessors.

    Come 2020, don’t be surprised if you hear a lot about “Veganuary”, a movement encouraging vegan eating and living during the month of January. And, when it comes to veganism, Gen Z is definitely on board. So throughout the holidays and the year ahead, be prepared to see lots of Zs making the shift to veganism (or, at least, being more ‘woke’ about what they consume in general).

    Restaurant tip: As a general rule, Gen Zers seek out organic, natural, locally-sourced and sustainable menu options in unprecedented numbers. Marshmallow mashed potatoes may still make the menu, but it would be even wiser to offer healthful sides of locally-sourced greens and vegan-friendly options (year round!)  to appeal to Gen Z diners.

    Feed Gen Z's preferences, and ye shall be rewarded

    From Diwali to Thanksgiving to Mawlid un-Nabi to Hannukah to Christmas dinner—and every breakfast, lunch, dinner (and snack) in between—Gen Z is leaving its indelible mark on holiday eating. Restaurants need to keep alert to Gen Z’s rapidly expanding food preferences. The most diverse generation in American history wouldn’t have it any other way.

    For more information on Gen Z eating habits, download our global Gen Z Restaurant Report here.

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