As Boomers and Gen X age, Millennials and Gen Z are reshaping the “what and how” of away-from-home meals. There are critical differences among each of these groups which will impact how suppliers and operators develop and market products in the long term.

Some Facts

  • A strong percentage (42%) of Millennials have cut back restaurant visits compared to last year and 64% are concerned about the price of restaurant meals (FSIP Research)
  • A majority share (81%) of consumers aged 18-34 reported they are trying to spend less at restaurants. The methods they use to accomplish this include eating out less often, going to less expensive restaurants, ordering less expensive items, only going to restaurants offering “deals” and skipping extras (FSIP Research)

In June, we hosted a strategy session in Chicago and attendees were able to discuss the opportunities and challenges of appealing to the changing consumer base.

Identified Issues

  • Personalization – The away-from-home consumer today is looking for something that is specific to them. While the made-to-order trend is not new, Millennials and Gen Z are looking for an occasion that fits their lifestyles and specific need-states at a certain moment.
  • Indulgence – Health and wellness aside, the away-from-home consumer has remained steady in its demand for indulgence options away-from-home. Considering that dining out is somewhat more expensive than eating at-home, patrons of all ages like to look for items that they crave and can’t easily duplicate at home.
  • Social Media – Millennials and especially Gen Z are accustomed to online showcasing of occasions – whether it be travel, hanging around the neighborhood and especially dining out. This emerging away-from-home diner looks for an occasion that is different, unique and exclusive to themselves to share on social media with their friends and followers.
  • Improved Flavor for Better for You Products – foods can help with heart and mental health that taste much better than in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1980s, the trend was toward weight loss. Today, it is more about healthy ingredients and lifestyle changes.
  • Health Attributes – younger consumers are engaged with CBD-infused products. Yet, the benefits and pricing are still not regulated or clear. Younger consumers are also opting out of alcohol-beverage occasions and instead looking for more natural remedies.


Picture of couple dining out at looking at menus

Foodservice IP’s Take

The new generation of consumers – Gen Z and Millennials – will begin to outseat Gen X and Boomers in the near term. The challenge for manufacturers will be to stay ahead of their dynamic needs rather than be reactive. Foodservice IP suggests that manufacturers review regular tracking data of consumer dining habits, psychographics and emotional connections to food. We believe that as this group ages many of the trends that we have experienced in dining out will be very similar among previous generations, but in the next 10-15 years frequent trend mining will be necessary. Remember that reported data and behavioral data are different and should both be considered.


Hungry for more insights around consumer foodservice trends? We can help. Contact a foodsevice IP expert today.


Julie Heseman is a Principal with Foodservice IP. Julie has several years of experience in the foodservice industry managing projects, developing new business, handling P&Ls, market sizing, supply chain research and overseeing the growth of client portfolios. Her experience spans foodservice manufacturers, broadline distributors, and chain restaurant operators.