Gen Z Diners Are Drawn to Value & Focused Menu of QSRs

According to The NPD Group, classic menu items appeal to this group.
Generation Z

CHICAGO — A new report reveals that older Generation Z consumers, ages 18 to 24, in the United States are discerning when choosing restaurants. 

Although price matters to this group, their taste preferences and definition of value dictate the type of restaurants they visit, according to a recent report by The NPD Group. Gen Zs skew towards quick-service restaurants (QSRs), particularly fast-casual restaurants that balance value and a focused menu.  

"Now is the time to reach these young adults as they enter their peak restaurant usage stage," said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. "Restaurant operators can differentiate their brand with Gen Zs by focusing on creative spins on classic foods, engaging relevant messaging, and generating value beyond price."

Gen Z Menu Preferences

NPD highlighted that when deciding to eat out, Gen Zs choose the food they want before the restaurant. Many are seeking more from their restaurant foods and beverages, including local, low-calorie, organic, sustainable and plant-based options.

When it comes to choosing what to eat, classic menu items — like burgers and chicken options that are unique, craveable, and can't be replicated at home — appeal to this group. Snack-oriented foods, bottled water, and non-carbonated soft drinks are also popular with Gen Zs.

Chicken sandwich offerings are essential to Gen Zs, particularly those with value price points or a spicy profile, added NPD, which recently merged with Information Resources Inc. to create a leading global technology, analytics and data provider.

Overall Insights

In the past 12 months ending July 2022, Gen Zs made 5 billion restaurant visits; 4.3 billion of those visits were to QSRs and 736 million were to full-service restaurants.

Quick-service traffic was flat compared to a year ago, while Gen Zs fast casual visits were up 4 percent in the period compared to a year ago. Members of the consumer group favor major fast-casual chains that provide the menu items they want, value for the money, and messaging that reflects their interests, like organics and sustainability, according to NPD's recently released Winning Gen Z Consumers study. 

The report also discovered an increase in spending in categories like apparel and overall inflationary pressures have heightened Gen Z's price sensitivity, in which half of the consumer group revealed that higher menu prices have impacted their restaurant visits.

Based in Chicago, The NPD Group offers data, industry expertise, and prescriptive analytics to help clients grow their businesses in today's retail landscape and prepare for the future.