| | Print
Gen Z Restaurant Food Trends

What generation has a spending power of over $29 Billion and makes up a quarter of all the people going out to eat?

If you’re not already marketing to the Gen Z audience, start now. In 2018, Generation Z (anyone born in 1997 or later) made 14.6 billion restaurant visits, accounting for a full quarter of all foodservice traffic. This is further proof that they put a lot of spending into experiences, and with the right menu, atmosphere, and marketing, you can make sure you’ll be their next destination.

Simple: they’re changing restaurant industry trends and forcing a real hard look at restaurant menus all around.

Your best-selling menu items might not be your most profitable. Find out how your restaurant POS can help uncover the hidden gems on your menu.

Gen Z Food Trends

Generation Z is leading the charge in many restaurant industry trends, and forcing restaurateurs to take a real hard look at their current menus. Here are the food trends you’ll want to include on your menu to rope in the “zoomers.”

Street Food

According to Technomic’s new College and University Trend Report, 42 percent of Gen Z-ers want street food on the menu. This could have to do with the popularity of food trucks that serve street food that Generation Z has grown up with. 

Meat barbecue picnic at country fair. Lamb leg roasted at spit. Lamb grill, big piece of meat at rolling skewer. Street vendor,


Chicken is the preferred protein of choice – with 46 percent of Generation Z saying it’s their dinner choice. As the negative connotation to beef continues to rise, this more socially conscious generation has probably looked towards chicken to fulfill their meat-cravings. 

Plant-Based Food

 With Burger King debuting the “Impossible Whopper” this year, it’s easy to see that people are more curious than ever before about plant-based food. In fact, we’ve found it’s the highest trending menu item right now.

Fermented Foods

Although normally attributed to Millenials, Generation Z has followed in their footsteps with their love of fermented menu items, like Kombucha. With notable health benefits, and higher price tag, it’s right up Gen Z’s alley.


The snacking trend will continue to increase. 23 percent of Generation Z say they prefer to build a meal of appetizers or snack foods. This group has a huge emphasis on connectivity, which might explain why they would rather share a few apps than have a meal to themselves.


Some things never change. Just like every generation for the past few decades, Generation Z loves a good slice of pizza. Despite the cheesy carbo-loaded meal not being very health-conscious, organic, or “trendy,” Generation Z can’t deny that pizza is a timeless classic.


What kind of bowls? All of them! Acai bowls, burrito bowls, poke bowls; as long as you can put it in a bowl and bring it somewhere, Generation Z will take interest. 

gen z restaurant food trends

Check out the 2020 State of the Restaurant Industry Report for more food trends, staff turnover insights, and revenue-boosting tips.

Gen Z Eating Habits

While it’s true that millennials value the full dining experience more than other generations, the connectivity of Generation Z is not to be rivaled.

Diners in Generation Z have never been to a restaurant without a phone in hand. That means their reliance on technology is stronger than previous generations. Splitting checks, previewing the menu on Facebook, and even posting online reviews in real-time is the norm.

When it comes to dining out, many Gen Z-ers will decide if they want to eat at a restaurant solely based on their social media accounts. An active account with pretty, Instagram-worthy dishes will drive Gen Z to a restaurant. In order to attract this generation, having an active social media presence is key. The easiest way to do this? Engage with your customers! Encourage restaurant go-ers to tag your restaurant in their pictures and repost their images.

Avocado Toast with a Poached Egg

Account: Seamore’s

If you really know where to start, check out Upserve’s free restaurant marketing grader. It will assess your business’s digital presence and give you a score based on these profiles. If you get a bad score, have no fear! There are plenty of tips included on how to get better online reviews, boost more likes, and get seen when customers are searching online.

Despite Generation Z’s love for snacks and street food, they are also looking for truly gastronomic experiences. Generation Z is willing to try new food and dabble in trying bizarre, out of the box food trends. They are looking for restaurants that offer trendier food choices alongside more traditional ones.

The majority of Generation Z is looking for food that fits in with their values. Generation Z’s are attracted to restaurants that use organic, sustainable, and locally sourced produce throughout their menu. On top of this, Generation Z’s also prefer restaurants that are transparent with their ingredients as they prefer to know what exactly they are going to consume.

With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that this generation is ordering takeout from restaurants more than any other generation. With an increased interest in food, Generation Z is more apt to try takeout from restaurants on nights they can’t make it out then previous generations. Online ordering has become Generation Z’s best friend and that does not seem to be changing any time soon.

So how do restaurant owners get Generation Z to eat at their restaurant?

Keep your restaurant menu fresh, sustainable, and innovative. Get yourself online ordering and delivery service, and of course, jump on the restaurant social media bandwagon. Easy, right?

The state of the restaurant industry is ever-evolving, but nothing could have prepared restaurant owners and operators for 2020. Download our State of the Restaurant Industry Report for 2020 menu, sales, and holiday trends, plus stories from restaurant owners who managed to grow sales despite the pandemic.

Download Now
Written by   |  
Ryan McSweeney started his restaurant career as a dish-washer at the Sundae School Ice Cream Parlor in Dennisport, Massachusetts. For five years he served Cape Cod vacationers the biggest scoops of their favorite flavors. He spent many more years in the service industry, and brings his knowledge and love for the restaurant-world to Upserve where he provides the best restaurant technology to restaurateurs around the country.
Restaurant Insider