Why Gen Z Craves Personalized Restaurant Experiences

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The future of the industry is in embracing data-driven services to drive personalization and loyalty.

Immersed in customized content from their very first taste of digital media, Gen Z is a digitally native cohort that’s gotten used to having personalized experiences. Because the music they listen to, the content they watch, their social media feeds and so much more have always been curated specifically for them, they expect similar customization in all areas of their lives—and that includes restaurants. And when personalization has been the standard, static, one-size-fits all dining options spark menu anxiety and decision fatigue; according to a recent study from Prezzo, 86 percent of Gen Z adults experience this form of anxiety.

At the end of the day, restaurants can win with consumers by serving them relevant content that makes their life a little easier, even if it’s a matter as simple as picking the right side for the entrée. Understanding context and perception, embracing data-driven analytics, and adopting a new approach to relationship-building are key to meeting the high standards of the rising generation—and saving them from ubiquitous menu anxiety. 

360-Degree Dining: Revolutionizing the Quick-Service Experience

If a consumer’s experience is clunky or disjointed—for example, if the in-store kiosk has no way of connecting a consumer’s account for an in-store order—that kind of poor engagement can deepen anxiety around ordering. With a holistic approach, the brand is taking on the emotional work, so the consumer doesn’t have to. Seamless CX and smart recommendations, like suggesting plant-based options for a loyal vegan consumer or configuring menu boards to feature items popular with similar consumers, help meet the expectations of a consumer accustomed to the exceptional. But it also means having the operational intelligence to avoid suggesting an item that’s currently out of stock or unpopular in that area. Simple changes like this help reduce the clutter, streamline the journey, and prevent decision paralysis and information fatigue.

The Nexus of Loyalty and Personalization

Loyalty is an outcome—not a program—which makes the relationship between loyalty and personalization inherently symbiotic. Quick-serves are challenged with personalizing experiences in a sector where most transactions are unidentified and behavior can differ significantly depending on any number of uncontrollable and unpredictable factors. Relationships are the true equalizer for restaurants because people naturally seek out the brands that know who they are and what they like. We see that in practice all the time on a local level – when your neighborhood barista knows your regular order, they’re offering you a streamlined experience based on how you behave every morning. Smart personalization has leveled up this concept and is ushering in a new era of consumer-centricity that will change the way we engage for the better. With the right technology, you can build the authentic connections consumers are really looking for—mastering context, perception, and expectation to build loyalty.

Taking a Macro View

According to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment, from November 1-December 24,2023, spending in the restaurant sector was up 7.8 percent year over year; put simply—consumers are still dining out, even more than they were the year prior. But the Mastercard Economic Institute predicts 2024 to be a year of tradeoffs as consumers balance prices with priorities, so it’s crucial that restaurants invest in personalization to deliver the relevant experiences consumers seek. That means building the right foundation, asking the right questions, and marrying the in-store and online experiences to maximize every interaction.

Harnessing Data-Driven Personalization to Transform Your Quick-Service Restaurant

When actioned in line with robust privacy principles and responsibly managed, data puts countless benefits and opportunities on the table. By understanding preferences and behavior—and what drives that behavior—quick-serves can make more informed decisions to boost overall business performance. With smart personalization, consumers are treated to more satisfying and memorable experiences that can surprise and delight. A deep understanding of your own business performance and an awareness of what’s happening with the competition can trigger innovation that helps you stay ahead in a competitive market. And at its core, data allows you to be more authentic in how you relate and engage with consumers, cultivating a sense of belonging that enhances long-term loyalty.

The future of the industry is in embracing data-driven services to drive personalization and loyalty. For quick-service brands aiming to attract and retain Gen Z consumers, personalization is not just an option—it’s a necessity. With the right analytics, insights, and creative thinking, quick-service restaurants can offer holistic personalization that delivers real value and minimizes menu anxiety no matter the generation.

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