Gen Z and Food Delivery Apps are changing the restaurant game for good

During the pandemic, more people than ever before relied on food delivery apps. With restaurants closing down during quarantine or limiting their hours to protect their workers, and endless variant waves like Omicron sweeping through the nation, people have been relying on apps to order food in a safe and convenient way.

And the demographic that’s been most receptive to food delivery apps has been Gen Z, who we know are frequently at the forefront of technology and trends. Gen Z is already making its mark on the restaurant industry, and will continue to in the future – especially when they surpass millennials as the largest consumer base in the United States by 2026. It’s crucial for restaurants to learn about this generation’s habits now, so they can effectively market to them in the present – and beyond.

Gen Z and food delivery apps

Food delivery apps are perfect for digitally native Gen Z, who use their phones for everything from socializing and work to fun. It’s not surprising, then, that mobile-first Gen Z is leading the way when it comes to food delivery app usage as well. According to Civic Science, people aged 18-24 are the most likely to get food delivered through an app like Postmates, Seamless, Grubhub, or Uber Eats. 

Another survey found that millennials and Gen Zers are the main users of the big-4 third party delivery providers, which include DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Uber Eats. The study showed that 54% of customers ages 18 to 34 are monthly active users of at least one of these apps. 

When it comes to how they spend their money, Gen Z is willing to fork over a sizable portion of their budget to food and dining. According to a UNiDAYS study of more than 1,800 Gen Z students, 78% spent most of their disposable income on food. In the average Gen Z household, that amounted to about $760 per month on food — $550 of which was earmarked for groceries.

The unexpected Food x Social Media partnership catering to Gen Z’s needs

The food industry has recognized the influence and spending power of those in Gen Z, and they are responding to it with new innovations. For instance: Gen Z social media darling TikTok announced they will launch a new service in March – with partners Virtual Dining Concepts and Grubhub – called TikTok Kitchen. Essentially, customers will be able to order the most popular viral foods on the app through Grubhub. 

Perhaps TikTok was taking a cue from Instagram, another Gen Z favorite. During the lockdowns in April 2020, Instagram partnered with ChowNow by creating an “order now” button as well as a “story sticker” that let Instagram users order and pay for food directly through the app.

Food, alcohol, and snack delivery company Gopuff also tried to connect to Gen Z by partnering up with 20-year-old YouTube sensation Emma Chamberlain. In August of 2021, they announced they would be delivering Chamberlain Coffee beans, accessories, and gift sets to customers through their app in just minutes. It makes sense that Gopuff would know what would appeal to a younger generation, considering that the app’s founders are only 27 years old. 

But the connection to Gen Z influencers and delivery didn’t end there. Popular social media creator Mr Beast has “delivered” his youth fandom to the food delivery game as well, with the launch of his ghost kitchen delivery concept Mr Beast Burger. The restaurant, which all sparked from an initial content creation stunt to garner in-person and digital traction for his personal brand, has quickly expanded nationwide and racking up the $ big time.

With Gen Z’s spending power increasing, expect more and more food delivery apps to figure out unique ways to target this demographic, capturing their imaginations — and their dollars — while they’re at it.

How restaurants can satisfy Gen Z appetites

  • Team up with more than one food delivery app

One survey of Gen Zers and millennials revealed that respondents felt the major apps – DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, and Seamless – make it difficult for users to communicate with restaurants about requests and changes to orders.  

  • Provide a seamless and socially distanced ordering experience

Since Gen Z is all about contactless ordering, they should be given the option to not have to interact with a delivery person at all; that person could simply leave their food at their doorstep.

  •  Give Gen Z instant gratification — don’t let them get hangry

Additionally, restaurants should emphasize speed, since Gen Zers are typically impatient. According to UNiDAYS and Nextiva, 60% of 18-to-24-year-olds hang up their phone if a business owner doesn’t take their call right away. Gen Zers are much more likely to frequent a restaurant if they get their meals quickly, without any hassle.

  •  Provide healthy, whole-food options

This generation is also interested in the nutritional content behind food, and they seek out healthy options. Offering healthy choices and nutritional information and being transparent about what’s in the food will help restaurants better connect with Gen Zers.

  •  Deliver quality at an attractive pricetag

Gen Z is a price-sensitive generation, and they want to know that they’re getting their money’s worth when they purchase food from a restaurant. Providing fresh food made of quality ingredients at a decent price point is important for capturing Gen Z’s attention. Keep in mind that on top of food costs, Gen Z customers have to pay the food delivery app service fee and a tip. That could affect how a restaurant prices their menu items. To offset some of the costs, restaurants can set up rewards programs and loyalty discounts, which Gen Zers appreciate. 

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