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Generational Insights for Foodservice

The generation we each belong to can have a huge influence on how, what, when, where, and why we choose to eat. What foodservice operators need to know.

The generation in which each of us was born influences how we interact with the world around us. Generational cohort can have a huge influence on how, what, when, where, and why we choose to eat. A new continuing education course on shares insights for foodservice operators.

Members of Gen Z (born 1997 – 2012), who grew up with the Internet, are heavily influenced by Tik Tok food trends. They tend to view food as a form of self-expression and identity, and their food interests can turn on a dime. Because of its multi-ethnic, multi-cultural diversity, Gen Z is believed to have a broader palate than older generations. 

As digital natives and truth-finders, Gen Zs will heavily research foods online, scrutinizing sustainability information, ingredients, and nutrition details. Members of Gen Z have a strong snacking culture.

Did you know  that many Millennials (born 1981 – 1996) are reporting a high level of stress? This affects food choices, as 4 out of 5 say that the food and beverages they consume impact their mental and emotional well-being (Prepared Foods (Nov. 14, 2023). Millennials are also responsible for just over half of all fast-casual restaurant business. 

Almost seven out of 10 Millennial diners take photos of their food before they eat it. If a restaurant has a weak Instagram presence, 30% of Millennials won’t go there.

Members of Gen X (born 1965-1980) often embrace foods that are reminiscent of traditional family meals, such as meatloaf, hamburgers, and pizza. They tend to respond well to healthy food options, seeking out benefits such as energy and immunity, and they are drawn to superfoods like kale, blueberries, and almonds. Some are facing chronic health conditions (e.g., diabetes, obesity, cardiac concerns), and this influences food choices.

While younger generations may think of themselves as “foodies,” members of Gen X look for value and are likely to build loyalty to favorite destinations.

Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) often enjoy trying new foods, especially international fare that they might not know how to prepare on their own. They also generally hold high regard for restaurants’ culinary excellence, and they value the skills provided by professional chefs. They hold appreciation for fresh ingredients and local produce.

For many people in this generation, health concerns such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and cognitive issues may affect food and nutrient choices. This is an important demographic to pay attention to as U.S. age demographics shift older in the “greying of America”.

Our oldest citizens belong to the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945), who grew up during the Great Depression and learned to live with deprivation. They tend to be thrifty, respectful, cautious, and accommodating. Members of this cohort grew up before the advent of fast food and convenience food. They were accustomed to much more scratch cooking than is typical today. They tend to value fresh, local produce and are attentive to price and economy.

Social media matters

Social media content is influencing the food interests of all generations, according to the International Food Information Council’s 2023 Food and Health Survey. Based on social media content, “Half of Americans (51%) say they have tried a new recipe, 42% say they have tried a new brand or product, 29% say they have tried a new restaurant, and 28% say they have re-evaluated their relationship with food,” reports the survey. Depending on the generation, Tik Tok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat can all be key channels for discovery, according to survey findings.

Social media is such a force that the 2024 Culinary Forecast from the National Restaurant Association calls out the importance of “incorporating social media trends” into menu planning.

Learn more about feeding these generations, plus the up-and-coming Gen Alpha, in the new course, Feeding the Generations, at

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