Skip to main content

UNiDAYS  2017 Report: Millennials and Gen Z are Not Created Equal

UNiDAYS, a Student Affinity Network, announced the findings of its Gen Z study: “What Restaurants Need to Know,” highlighting key tips for restaurants to make inroads with Gen Z. Exploring the attitudes and behaviors of Gen Z consumers in the U.S., the study highlights common misconceptions – and often surprising trends – when it comes to understanding student preferences and how to engage this notoriously hard-to-reach generation. The UNiDAYS Gen Z Report is based on qualitative research generated by a survey of 1,800 Gen Z students in the US. and unveils four key themes restaurants need to pay attention to: 

1.  Move Past the Broke Student Mentality

According to the report, 78 percent of Gen Zs spend the majority of their money on food. However, Gen Z has already proven to be more financially savvy than their Millennial counterparts. So, even though they have the money to spend, they want to be careful about how they spend it. That being said, when they do eat out, Gen Z spends more dollars on average than what is typically expected of students. Nearly half of those surveyed spend $10-$20 on an order, and 15 percent spend $20 or more.

2. Community-Based Incentives Are Key

Gen Z is constantly bombarded with brand messaging yet they are notoriously resistant to advertising. Of those surveyed only eight percent find out about new menu items from TV and only four percent from display advertising. Instead, Gen Z relies on friends and social media networks. The best way to market local offers to Gen Z are through community-based platforms that build brand affinities.

3. Embrace Spontaneity

Gen Z’s are spontaneous by nature. Only five percent of them said they plan their meals in advance while 48 percent said they try a new quick-service restaurant chain every month. Restaurants can take advantage of their willingness to try new things by using real-time tactics such as mobile push alerts for promotions of menu items and pricing geared towards Gen Z. Since they often communicate in images, it’s critical to dedicate “resources to leverage images and video snippets of your food across social and in promotions targeted at Gen Z.”

4. What Gen Z is Craving: It’s Not About the Meal Plan

Almost 48 percent of students don’t have a campus meal plan, and UNiDAYS says, “if they’re not coming to you, then they’re checking out your competition - which includes local and independent restaurants.” Students share that almost half of local eateries provide special offers for them and 78 percent are taking advantage.

Additional insights uncovered in the 2017 Gen Z: What Restaurants Need to Know Report.


The UNiDAYS 2017 report: “What Restaurants Need to Know About Gen Z” was generated through a quantitative online survey fielded among 1,873 verified Gen Z students in the US, via UNiDAYS private online community network. The survey was fielded August 1 - 31, 2017. Throughout the survey, the report refers to individuals surveyed as students and Generation Z.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds