The oldest among Generation Zs are 18 to 24 years old, an age group that, historically, is entering the heaviest restaurant usage stage. However, history may not repeat itself with this generation, according to The NPD Group.

When Gen Xers were young adults, they averaged 284 visits per person a year. Millennials, as young adults impacted by the Great Recession, made 40 fewer restaurant visits per person a year versus their Gen X counterparts. Gen Z young adults made 218 annual restaurant visits per person the 12 months through February 2022, 66 fewer visits than Gen Xers in 2002, according to NPD research.

The pandemic is a big factor is Gen Z visits to restaurants, but it’s not the only one. They also have more interests vying for their dollars than previous generations, such as footwear, beauty and technology categories.

Additionally, half of the Gen Zs surveyed by NPD said that higher menu prices have impacted their restaurant visits. Price is the most important attribute among consumers 18 to 24 years old when choosing a restaurant, reports NPD.

“Restaurant operators and their manufacturer partners must quickly adapt to how Gen Z consumers think and feel,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “An understanding of which menu items to emphasize, the food attributes they seek, menu innovations that appeal to them, and their preferred advertising platforms will help you win the favor of this valuable generation.”