By Jay Kitterman, consultant, LLCC Culinary Institute
Poor restaurants, just when they were getting a handle on what Millennials eat, the next generation is here and growing up. Generation Z, also known as Centennials, iGeneration (iGen), Post-Millennials, Plurals or the Homeland Generations by most definitions were born starting in 1994 and after.
Generation Z is composed of almost 82 million Americans according to the Census Bureau’s 2015 population estimates. They are entering the workforce, have money, and according to a recent survey, spend more than one-fifth of their total budget on food. More than on clothing, electronics or concerts. A quick review of what the different age groups are:
Millennials or Generation Y
Generation Z is now estimated to be close to equal if not larger than the number of Baby Boomers or Millennials. In terms of demographics, Generation Z is more ethnically diverse than any other generational cohort. One study estimates that in the United States, 55 percent of Generation Z are Caucasians and that will drop to less than 50 percent by 2042. Twenty-four percent are Hispanic, 14 percent are African-American, four percent are Asian and four percent multiracial or other. Not only do the faces of those in Generation Z look different, but their social circles are also more diverse.
A general trend (as I observe daily at Lincoln Land Community College) is they are big users of mobile technology. Generation Z is the first cohort to have internet technology so readily available at a very young age, with 77 percent of 12-17-year-olds owning a cell phone. They never walk into a restaurant without their phone in hand. They avoid lines by placing food orders on their phones and rather than using cash, and they use digital services such as Venmo. Ordering food using tabletop laptops or kiosks is now common. They are price conscious as a result of watching their student loan burdened Millennial parents suffer through the Great Recession, but at the same time are demanding their meals be made with high quality ingredients. Many do not frequent white tablecloth dining rooms nor are they interested in junk food. Emphasis is on restaurants that are comfortable, healthful and a value. Even in limited service dining, Gen Z consumers expect their food to have fresh components. They look for a balance of vegetable to protein and starch. They are more likely to be flexitarian, eating a primarily plant-based diet that sometimes includes meat, fish or poultry and dishes where the vegetable is the star of the plate. Standards of humane animal treatment and food production are base expectations. Gen Z has proven to be pretty adventurous in their eating choices, but still rely on the foods they grew up on: burgers, pizza, tacos and pastas. They’re trying new spice levels, and mild to hot flavors are appealing to them. They look for “authentic” experiences and try out foods from all over the globe.
This ethnic diversity and openness means that what constitutes “American” food is changing, and that ethnic tastes and foods will become even more mainstream. Also, the lines between ethnic menus are blurring, and Generation Z will want—and expect—more mash-ups combining multiple ethnic influences.
Another area affected by changing demographics is the family unit. On average, only about two out of three Generation Z kids live in a two-parent household (that’s down from more than 80 percent for Generation Xers). This means more of their households are smaller, led by a woman who works outside the home, and involve more than one home location. These new households use restaurants for different meal occasions than those of the past, with the notion of the “family dinner” changing from a regularly scheduled, home-based experience to one in which restaurants are playing a more important and frequent role.
Boomers were known for preferring familiar American fare. Gen Z as the most ethnically diverse generation are more likely to seek innovative and ethnic cuisines. Gen Z is the first generation to completely grow up in the digital age. They want to know where their food is from, how it is grown and who made it. Boomers and Generation Z approach cooking in different ways. While my generation prefers recipes in traditional cookbooks, Gen Z prepares dishes based on wordless pictures posted on line. They are scrutinizing nutrition labels preferring foods and beverages containing only ingredients they recognize. You will not hear them say “I am on a diet.” It’s more likely you will hear, “I am avoiding dairy.”
How Gen Z defines organic is impacting our grocery stores. Gen Z views organic as a symbol of healthy food. Tasting better is the rationale to spending the additional money needed to purchase organic. The age of food coming off the conveyor belt and eating at the same time, three meals a day, has simply gone out the window.
One report from “Restaurant Insider;”
• 42 percent want to see more “street” foods” on a menu.
• Snacking trend will increase. Twenty-three percent of Generation Z say they prefer to build a meal of appetizers or snack foods than order a traditional entrée.
• Chicken is the preferred protein of choice, 46 percent reporting it is their dinner choice.
• Rounding out the other top food choices are burgers and pizza. Food trends see a rise of bowl foods, and all-day snacks.
The report continues to advise restaurants that it is Important for them to stay visible by keeping their menu fresh, sustainable and innovative. In addition, restaurants need to have online ordering and delivery service and jump on the restaurant social media bandwagon.
For most of Generation Z diners, social media has been around for their entire lives. They have grown up with companies marketing though social media as much as any other advertising channel and are expecting restaurants to do the same. Just as I was getting accustomed to Facebook, Gen Z is shying away from it (now considered a site for older generations or internet users) and focusing more on Instagram, Twitter and Tumbler.
I end this month’s article with the following quote I found on the internet describing Generation Z.
“What is significant is that we have a generation to whom diversity is the norm; what Generation Z notice is not diversity but lack of it.”
This month’s article appears towards the end of the Jewish New Year High Holy Days Celebration. My family would like to wish everyone a healthy and sweet New Year. Recipes for this month are traditional ones that can be enjoyed anytime of the year. My thanks to Nancy Chesley and Nancy Sage for providing the following recipes.
(Honey symbolizes a wish for a sweet New Year)
1 ½ cups honey
1 ½ c. sugar
2 c. unsweetened applesauce
4 c. sifted flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
Pinch of cloves and/or allspice
Beat together honey, eggs and sugar with electric mixer. Add applesauce and mix until blended.
Sift together dry ingredients into separate bowl, then add gradually to first mixture with mixer running at low speed. Grease and flour two square cake pans, fill with batter, and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.
(Joy of Kosher, Jamie Geller)
2 tbs honey
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground cinnamon
4 cloves garlic chopped
3 ½ pond chicken, cut in to 8 pieces
2 medium red onions quartered
1 small red-skin potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1 cup dried apricots
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup coarsely chopped pistachios
2 tbs Italian parsley
Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil; spray the foil with cooking spray.
Mix together the honey, olive oil, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and garlic in a small bowl. Put chicken onions and potatoes in a large bowl. Toss with three-quarters of honey mixture and arrange in single layer in pan. Toss apricots and raisins with honey and set aside.
Bake the chicken, onions and potatoes for 35 minutes. Add the apricots and raisins and bake until chicken is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish with pistachios and parsley.