All Posts

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

Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. Pumpkin (and/or pecan) pie-induced food comas. And while we're on the subject of favorite Gen Z holiday foods, why not also include pozole, karanjis, latkes and Lebanese tabbouleh? Generation Z — the most diverse generation in American history — will have room in its heart (and stomach) for any and all of these offerings.

Gen Zers aren’t in the business of banishing old American food traditions so much as they’re in the habit of vastly expanding — and improving — upon them. For Gen Z, having a diversity of menu options during the holidays is as natural as Instagramming photos of said menu items. If you’re in the restaurant business, here are just a few quick tips to help you keep Gen Z fed during Winter break -- and beyond.

Diversity is the new, all-American normal for holiday eating.

At the turn of the last century, if you were to stroll through New York’s Lower East Side on a cold December’s eve, you’d catch a whiff of the future of eating. Tenement by tenement and block after block, your nostrils would encounter the jostling aromas of American, Italian, Irish, German, Polish, Yiddish, Czech, Balkan, Ukrainian, Russian, Scandinavian and Chinese cooking — all vying for your attention. It would be enough to make a 21st-century Michelin critic think thrice before sitting down somewhere to eat.

That was a century ago (in a single neighborhood, in a single city). Today, Gen Z has all these dining options at its command and more — often with just the touch of an app. Make no mistake, Centennials still flock to holiday stalwarts like turkey meat and chestnut stuffing, but the diversity of their background makes other holiday menu options just as appealing: Pozole and tamales huastecos from Mexico, karanjis and kheel batasha for Indians celebrating Diwali, tabbouleh and Lebanese roast chicken stuffed with rice, spices and ground lamb for Middle Eastern Muslims celebrating Mawlid un-Nabi, paella and lechon for Filipino Christians — not to mention latkes, brisket and challah bread for Jews celebrating Hannukah.

Quick tip: Keep those pumpkin pies at the ready. But also be on standby to prepare dishes that may seem slightly off the beaten path to you... but are par for the course for Gen Z diners.

What do Gen Zers love more than food itself? Snacking on food.

They might spend more of their money on food than Millennials, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Gen Zers are into having food comas. Collectively speaking, 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-happy generation that perceives itself as being 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.

Quick tip: Holiday food traditions tend to be famous for their full-scale meals. But sometimes full-scale meals aren’t part of the plan for Gen Z. Prepare your snacks and appetizers accordingly.

Unlike recent forebears, Gen Z eats to stay healthy.

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.

Quick tip: As a general rule, Gen Zers are seeking out organic, natural, locally-sourced and sustainable menu options in unprecedented numbers. Marshmallow mashed potatoes may still make the menu cut (if that’s your thing) but it would be even wiser to offer healthful sides of locally-sourced greens to appeal to Gen Z diners.

In summary

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.

New call-to-action

John Wheeler
John Wheeler
Managing Editor, Gen Z Insights

Related Posts

Why does Gen Z love nano-influencers? Because they're *not* famous.

More and more Gen Zers are relying on social media nano-influencers to learn about new products and services. Here’s the 101 on this up-and-coming trend and why you should make these influencers a part of your social media strategy.  

How to woo Gen Z travelers to your hotel in 2019

Gen Z students overwhelmingly prefer staying at hotels over Airbnbs. Here are three ways in which hotel brands can gear up for increased Gen Z demand this coming year.

These three Gen Z brands did Black Friday a little differently

A holiday that once focused solely on deals and discounts is becoming more interesting and meaningful than its original intent — and we largely have Gen Z to thank for that. Here are three retail brands that embraced Gen Z’s unique approach to Black Friday shopping.