Fast-​Casual Restaurants Can Score Gen Z Traffic

BY Rachel Cagle
Featured image for “Fast-​Casual Restaurants Can Score Gen Z Traffic”

For decades, the most important right of passage for American teenagers was the purchase of a first car to drive to the mall to hang out with friends. A new analysis of teenage conversation patterns by Engagement Labs shows that teens today (popularly known as Generation Z) present an entirely new challenge to marketers. Enabled by mobile devices, ride sharing, and a penchant for walkable restaurants and retail malls, teenagers are shunning destination retail and the auto industry for FaceTime, 7‑Eleven, and Starbucks.

"We call Generation Z a TotalSocial generation because they are socializing both online and offline. They have more consumer conversations than older consumers, but it's not just a digital phenomenon. They are talking more face-​to-​face about products and services as well," said Ed Keller, CEO, Engagement Labs. "We are also seeing major shifts from the teenagers of five years ago, indicating that Gen Z is a very different type of generation, with long-​term implications for marketers."

The majority of Gen Z is very social. According to AudienceSCAN, this age group is active on numerous forms of social media, including YouTube (71.2%), Facebook (63.1%), Instagram (60.2%) and Snapchat (59.6%). They're also 17% more likely than other adults to share good experiences on social media. In fact, social network postings that weren't even advertisements led 25.3% of this group to take action.

The study identifies broad patterns from changes in the individual brands that teenagers talk about every day, indicating that restaurants and local retail are in, while cars, specialty and department stores are all out with this generation of teenagers.

Most Restaurant Brands Gain from TotalSocial Gen Z 
Today, compared to 2013, nearly every restaurant is being talked about more often by Gen Z. Conversation levels among teens have literally tripled, or more, for several restaurant chains: Baskin & Robbins, Del Taco, Domino's, and California Pizza Kitchen. Despite the rising tide for restaurants among Generation Z overall, several quick-​service restaurants like McDonald's are seeing modest declines, including Burger King, Subway, Taco Bell, and Wendy's. The report authors see evidence that casual chains that enable "hanging out" with friends are becoming more popular than the in-​and-​out convenience of "quick service" restaurants. Gen Z is taking the "fast" out of "food."

Restaurants can promote themselves as great Gen Z hangout spots to this generation best through digital ads. According to AudienceSCAN, 53.1% of Gen Z took action last year after seeing a mobile/​text ad. Members of Gen Z are also likely to do some online research into a restaurant before they check it out. Last year, 40.2% of this group did so. This gives restaurants the opportunity to set text link ads on websites, which led 44% of this audience to take action last year. Members of Gen Z are also 12% more likely than other adults to take action after hearing an ad on over-​the-​air or online radio.

AudienceSCAN data is available for your applications and dashboards through the SalesFuel API. Media companies and agencies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.