Marketing to Generation Z, iGen, and Homelanders

Generation Z

After years of radical changes in social media, personal engagement, and relationship building, the next generation of consumers is getting ready to revamp the marketing game again. Generation Z is defined as kids and teens under eighteen years old, all of whom make up about a quarter of North America and two billion worldwide. They control $44 billion in the United States alone, and they will soon be the big buyers in practically every industry — especially foodservice.

To start, Generation Z grew up in a safety-conscious, post-9/11 world that included the Great Recession, bank bailouts, and a host of other social and economic issues. By those benchmarks, it's no wonder that 56% of this generation says they're savers (not spenders), making them more fiscally conservative than Generations X and Y.

However, 72% of Generation Z-ers still want to start their own business, and 26% already actively volunteer. In addition, instances of violence and recklessness have significantly declined with the upcoming generation, with the exception of the fact that they're more likely to text while driving. Overall, Generation Z is a safe, cautious, and organized bunch — the kind of people who prefer structure to chaos, planning to chance, and thought to impulse.

So how do you grab the attention of yesteryear's rugrats?

Instagram

Instagram picture

In December 2014, Instagram reached 300 million users, and the numbers are steadily climbing. While that total may be less than half of Facebook, Instagram is gaining steam with younger generations who prefer photos and bite-sized information to wordy status updates. Sentences have been replaced with images and brief captions (if any at all) to say the most while using the least. Fun photo ops, infographics, in-house art, and more are all great ideas to maintain a steady Instagram presence. The more active you are, the more followers you'll receive, and the greater the chance to increase profits.

Maintaining an Instagram presence also gives you a chance to check whenever someone posts photos of your food — and for most users, photographing food is as common as going out to eat. To give you an example of how powerful this food photography movement is, The Cheesecake Factory averages 26.2 photos per location over the course of an eighteen day period. While that may not sound like much, keep in mind that this is an average — the best locations had as many as 5,000 photos in the same timeframe. Couple that with the fact that 90% of Instagram users are under 35, and you have a social media platform that will advertise to a group of fresh consumers for free.

Viral Marketing

Viral marketing

Even more than Millennials, Generation Z responds to viral marketing. This breaks down to any fresh, new idea that has the potential to be cool, funny, or sometimes flat-out weird. Take, for example, Old Milwaukee, whose ad campaigns consist of ridiculous ways to pass someone a beer, Jose Canseco smashing a can with a bat, and Will Ferrell cracking jokes.

For the restaurants that can't afford triple-A celebrities or the destruction of random product, you can still get inventive with how you advertise. Produce something original that showcases your brand — start a flash mob with your serving staff, jump on a trend bandwagon, or even destroy a sandwich you sell in slow motion. (People love slow motion — there's actually a YouTube channel to prove it.) While it may seem pointless to blow up a meal you've made just for video views, you get the word out about your brand and associate yourself with something that people enjoyed. And that association, along with word of mouth, is more effective than any billboard.

Skip Buzzwords

Simply said, Generation Z doesn't respond to buzzwords. They prefer an authentic person-to-person experience that brings a company down to a more relatable level. Instead of flashy graphics and showy ideas, Generation Z wants you to forge a relationship with them. Replying to tweets, maintaining a polite sensibility, and practicing online etiquette are all great ways to gain the respect and business of younger consumers. And above all, don't talk down to them — they might be young and inexperienced, but they know what they like. Using the right strategies can make them like you.

Posted in: Trends | By Christopher Zook

Altering Your Menu to Accommodate Alternative Diets

For some households, dining out has become more of a task than a treat. No meat. No gluten. Paleo.

Because of society’s ever-changing dietary trends, as well as newfound allergies, it’s important for restaurant owners to tailor their menus to accommodate alternative diets if they want to maintain their status as go-to places to eat. By using basic ingredients, but offering a customizable menu, you can easily and economically market to a wide array of alternative diets. There are many simple ways your restaurant can obtain a more diverse palate. Check some of our ideas out below!

Reorganize Your Menu

Reorganize Your Menu

By simply organizing a menu, so it's clearly shown what exactly your restaurant serves, guests will feel less overwhelmed when they prepare to order. Create designated titles throughout your menu that read: Poultry, Beef, Vegetarian, Vegan, and Gluten Free. By making these subheadings obvious and easy to read, diners can easily flip through to the section that meets their dietary restrictions.

Add a Dietary Legend

If reorganizing your entire menu doesn’t sound too appealing, how about adding a key at the bottom of each page that has symbols to represent various dietary alternatives? This way, you can offer your same specials and entrées, but you can easily show that they can be altered to fit a specific restriction. For example, if you have a pasta menu you’re very proud of, but you’re losing business because many customers are finding they’re gluten intolerant, you can place an asterisks next to any pasta dish that can be substituted with gluten free noodles, or vegetable noodles! Also, if you make an awesome baked potato soup but want your vegan guests to also enjoy it, use a symbol to show you have a recipe to make it vegan-friendly.

Use Raw Foods and Simple Ingredients

Fresh Fruits

To kill two birds with one stone, you can simply make a vow to use only raw, simple ingredients. This will accommodate those on paleo diets, and it will market to guests that want a healthier dining out menu in general. Check out some of the paleo approved foods below, and you’ll be amazed by the countless possibilities you can concoct.

  • Grass-fed meats
  • Fish
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Certain nuts and seeds
  • Healthy oils, such as olive, walnut, avocado, and coconut
By making your restaurant menu more alternative diet-friendly, you will keep existing customers, attract new ones, and make your establishment more marketable and unique. Every business needs a niche, and this could be yours!
Posted in: Health & Wellness | By Ashley Kufera

New York City Bans Foam Containers

On Thursday, Jan. 8, New York City announced that it will ban the use of foam containers within the city limits, according to the Wall Street Journal. The action follows a December 2013 city council decision to ban the containers unless they could be recycled, an idea that was successfully disproved by New York's sanitation department. As a result, restaurants, food carts, and every other business cannot use or sell foam containers as of July 1, 2015.

New York is the next and largest city in a long line of metropolitan areas that have banned foam containers, including San Francisco and Seattle. Businesses in these cities have sourced non-foam or even eco-friendly alternatives that work well for the same job. On the up side, supporters maintain that this trend is better for the environment. On the down side, opponents point out that foam alternatives cost more.

However, the price difference is not as drastic as it may seem. It's possible to pick out eco-friendly disposables, including cups and take out boxes, that can fall within a budget. There are even biodegradable food trays for buffets, cafeterias, and other models. They may cost a little more, but the slight increase in price is nothing compared to the cost of the fines you would receive for non-compliance.

For those concerned about an increase in expenses, New York has already planned for exceptions to the new law. Some non-profits are already exempt, as are small businesses that earn less than $500,000 per year that can prove the switch would cause undue hardship.

Last, it's important to note that this ban only affects foam containers, such as cups and boxes. The does not affect the material known as Styrofoam, which is a trademarked product of the Dow Chemical company and not used to make foam containers.

Posted in: News | By Christopher Zook

Local Sourcing for Seasonal Menus

mobile ordering

Locally sourced food is one of the fastest growing trends in restaurants today — and it's been growing steadily for several years. More and more, customers want to know that their food is coming from places they can trust, especially if it's the farmer's market down the street. Locally sourced ingredients have become synonymous with quality to many consumers, particularly in urban areas, and they like to see that everything from chicken to lettuce is from a name that they recognize.

Sourcing all of your food locally is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you'll make customers happy. On the other, your menu can't stay the same year-round. If you're only sourcing food from local areas, you'll eventually run out of certain ingredients if there's a bad harvest, or at least when the seasons change. To keep up, you have to have a grasp on what "local" is and how to adapt to changing supply.

Defining "Local"

mobile ordering

Unfortunately, there's no official definition of "local" when discussing food sourcing, although the New Oxford American Dictionary says that "local" refers to a 100 mile radius of where the food is served. For some restaurants, like Chipotle, it can be as far as 350 miles. Other companies like Whole Foods go by state lines and regional divisions. Generally, whenever a company gives the details about where it finds its food, they at least have a grasp of the "local" idea. But because there's no legal distinction to cover local foods, some corporations are able to sell "locally sourced" product through clever wording.

mobile ordering

With such a boom in popularity, "local" has become a major buzzword for advertisers. Depending on your food supplier, "local" could refer to the farms that are around the company's processing or distribution centers — not necessarily the ones around your business. So if you operate out of Maine, you could use a nation-wide distributor that gets its food from Kansas, delivers it to a processing plant nearby, ships it to a distribution center in Nebraska, and then buses it out to you. The food is technically "local" in relation to the processing center, but it's about 2000 miles from your community.

Basically, the only sure way to make sure your ingredients are coming from a truly local source is to purchase them in person. Although it's also possible to find reputable shippers who can send you food from your area, it's important to pay attention to the wording and phrasing in a distributor's copy.

Adapting

mobile ordering

Locally sourcing ingredients means you need to change your menu according to what's available. The first step is learning what's grown in which season around your business. For example, Philadelphia, PA has a huge harvest season of dozens of vegetables year-round, including the winter. However, making an entrée out of Brussels sprouts, kale, leeks, and parsnips can be difficult. So a Philadelphia business will most likely have to get food from a nation-wide supplier between January and March to fill out most of its menu, while locally sourced produce simply fills in the gaps.

Naturally, growing seasons, harvests, and foods will differ from region to region, so it's important to check the best planting and harvesting times for your area. You can easily do this with a number of credible sources, including the Farmer's Almanac, to make sure that you can plan ahead from year to year. This could mean changing ingredients, like replacing a green in a salad, or taking out whole dishes, like swapping tomato bisque with broccoli chowder. With these tools at your disposal and a little bit of foresight, you can adjust your menu for almost any possible outcome that year — except for poor harvests.

Low-yield harvests mean higher prices and lower stock, which could have a drastic impact on your menu. If you have to raise the price of a dish just because of the purchasing cost of one ingredient, you may have to call an audible on your menu at the last second to work in something else. As with seasonal changes, you could also check in with a big-name distributor to get your remaining ingredient, but that means you would have to admit that parts of a dish were sourced from outside your area. There's not a correct answer across the board when it comes to local sourcing — you simply have to pick what you believe is best for your restaurant.

Posted in: Trends | By Christopher Zook
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