We’ve repeatedly touted the importance of catering to Generation Y, the influential group of 18- to 35-year-olds that come with $600 billion in spending power. But before you wrap your mind around that number, we’ve got another up-and-comer you need to keep an eye on as well: Generation Z, the pre-teen and early teen customers.
Restaurant owners are always requesting customer feedback to improve the guest experience. But while many look to the needs of customers in their 20s, it might be worth their time to see what tweens want, too.
While Generation Y has been one of the most researched generations, Generation Z follows closely in their footsteps with regard to influence and spending power. According to the paper “Marketing to the Generations,” Generation Z possess about $45 billion in spending power and influences more than $600 billion in family spending. These kids are not brand loyal, and almost 60 percent say they would rather save money than spend it.
Operators and businesses will need to work even harder to earn a slice of that $45 billion pie.
What Do Tweens Want? Choices.
The issue facing many parents is finding a family-friendly restaurant that offers the right options and appropriate portions sizes for tweens. Kids menu portion sizes can often be too small and the choices limited to chicken tenders and mini corn dogs. Adult portions tend to be too large and the pricing not justifiable for an 11-year-old.
When a family dines out with kids, the bill can increase as much as 111 percent. The expense of dining out is not to be taken lightly. According to Technomic, about 31 percent of parents order off the kids menu for their children between 6-12. The restaurant industry has invested so much money and time in marketing toward younger children. And yet, they’ve almost forgotten about older kids. Where are the big kids’ meals?
According to a Y-Pulse survey, more than 50 percent of 8- to 13-year-olds prefer eating at home or at fast food restaurants over casual restaurants. This is just one indication that more operators need to meet Generation Z’s needs in the middle. The survey also shows that parents and tweens are looking for more customizable menus and healthier options.
One example of a restaurant offering kids healthy options is The Original Pancake House franchise in Dallas. The six-location franchise features the Kids Fit Menu, which offers a variety of healthy proteins and sides. Kids can essentially mix, match and build their own meals.
It Takes More to Win Over Generation Z
The members of Generation Z are at a stage where they also want more adventurous options when dining out. There is a time they might crave pizza or grilled cheese sandwiches, but they also want to try something new.
Restaurant Magazine cited chef-owner Jeff Tunks of PassionFish for dedicating the same focus to the kid’s menu as he does to the adult menu. Tunks says his young guests have a more adventurous palate. He offers them beginner sushi rolls made with basic ingredients to introduce them to the new cuisine.
Restaurants need to work harder to get more families through the doors. According to a Technomic Report, 25 percent of families base their dining decisions on food first, and 32 percent of families appreciate respectful service. Businesses should not write off tweens and only offer a sub-par kid’s menu. They will eventually be working harder than ever to earn Generation Z dollars as the tween generation grows up.
A tablet survey is one way to ensure that every customer, both young and old, knows you care about the experience your business has provided. Young customers are especially interested to interact with a visually appealing digital survey where they can provide honest, anonymous feedback. Youngsters love tablets, too, as you know if you’ve ever seen one glued to an iPad.
The result is a business better equipped to serve up a great customer experience for all generations.
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Michelle Strong is chief marketing officer at LRS and an advocate for meaningful customer engagement.