Their restaurant usage doesn't appear as strong as previous generations, a new study finds.

Compared to previous generations, members of Gen Z are just not going to restaurants as much.

When Gen Xers were young adults, they averaged 284 visits a year, according to a report by The NPD Group. Millennials were impacted by the Great Recession, so they averaged 40 fewer visits than Gen X when they were young adults. 

Gen Z’s comes in at about 218 visits per year.

Part of this is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that’s not the only reason, NPD says.  

This generation of young people have more interests and options to give their money to than just restaurants. Some of the leading competition for spending has come from industries like apparel, footwear, beauty, and technology.

“Many of these categories are what we call committed consumption,” David Portalatin, NPD food industry adviser, says. “Where you have a regular monthly amount that’s due for things like streaming services or other technology related things.”

Half of those surveyed for the report said higher menu prices have impacted their restaurant visits, but price point is not the only factor they look for when eating out.

“This is a value conscious group,” Portalatin says. 

The research says Gen Z cares about the total perception of value, including things like the quality of the food and an experience they would not be able to reproduce themselves at home. 

“They’ve had exposure to more kinds of cuisine, global flavors, things from all over the world,” Portalatin says. “They are a very diverse generation to begin with. They are also more in tune with issues around sustainability or various food attributes, like if you’re following clean eating standards or things of that nature.”

Even with the decreased numbers, Gen Z is still the demographic group that will be going to restaurants the most frequently in the coming years.

“Generation Z is important because they are at a point in their life stage where they are going to eat more meals from restaurants next year than they did this year and that’s going to continue over the next few years,” David Portalatin says. 

This is important to think about for restaurants that want to retain their younger-generation customers and create brand loyalty.

Catering to the generation’s values is one way to get there, Portalatin says. The report found 18 percent of Gen Z consumers care about organic products, compared to 12 percent of those over 25. When it comes to sustainable sourcing, 16 percent Gen Z care about it, compared to 11 percent of older generations. Finally, 10 percent of Gen Z value plant-based options, while only 6 percent of older generations do. 

This generation also likes trying new things in the form of limited-edition products, new menu items, and new technology, Portalatin says.

“The smartphone has been a key portal for entry into restaurant ordering and clearly this generation has grown up with a device in their hand,” he says. “That’s also going to be a critical part of how you reach that group.”

Consumer Trends, Feature