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National Restaurant Association - Elevate the Gen Z guest experience with technology

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Elevate the Gen Z guest experience with technology

Generation Z has grown up with information at its command. To appeal to this tech-savvy and restaurant-friendly generation – born between the mid-1990s and early-2000s – restaurants need to improve their tech game. The National Restaurant Association, in collaboration with Georgia-Pacific Professional (GP PRO), has pulled together six ways restaurants can use technology to drive the Gen Z guest experience.

Mobile first: This generation is rarely without their smartphones, so having a website optimized for mobile is key. Your menu should be readily available as should online ordering through your site or a third-party vendor. Guests should be able to make reservations through mobile and get reminders about those reservations. Tying your loyalty programs to mobile can also increase use and efficiency.

“Building a mobile strategy around Gen Z makes good business sense,” says Alec Frisch, Vice President and General Manager of Foodservice at GP PRO. “This is a group that not only brings a notable restaurant spend, but their social influence with family and friends is unprecedented.”

Reviews are critical: According to Datassentials, Gen Z is far more likely to go places that receive favorable reviews from friends and family. Don’t forget to thank those who praise you and respond neutrally to negative feedback with ways you’ll improve. Knowing that you respond positively to feedback – even negative feedback – will encourage others to share their experience, giving your restaurant a valuable look inside your guests’ experience.

Engagement is a two-way street: Social media is key to any Generation Z strategy but it’s not just about throwing a few photos online. Diners want engagement. The first opportunity is often through social media. Engage your audience via social media by asking questions and soliciting feedback. Debating between which dessert to add to the menu? Crowdsource thoughts and acknowledge contributions.

Include employees in your social efforts – whether they’re sharing photographic moments from the pep talk before service, a cheese pull on pizza, or fresh strawberries from the local farmers market, allowing your front line of guest service to share their behind-the-scenes experience can help your restaurant shine.

A picture is worth 1,000 words: For Gen Z, it’s all about the visual. Consider incorporating lighting, background walls and unique objects to appeal to Instagram foodies. A funky banquette or outlandish piece of art can also enhance the Gen Z experience. Don’t forget the lighting – the better the lighting, the more professional your customer photos can look.

Seamless (and steady) she goes: From payment to packaging, this tech-savvy generation cares about the best in technology in all aspects of their experience. And Gen Z notices the details, whether it’s streamlined napkin and cutlery dispensers or even automated towel dispensers in the restroom. “Even when your front- and back-of-house operations are on point, an unkempt restroom can hurt the overall guest experience,” says Frisch.  “And it could drive negative reviews or even discourage return visits.”

Seamless digital payment is also essential – especially for carry-out or quick serve meals. This means that paying with a card should be accepted the same way from any service, putting the customer’s experience first.

Develop your voice: All the social content in the world won’t help if you don’t develop your restaurant’s unique voice. From the tone of the captions to the style of the photos, develop a voice that reflects what’s special to your brand. Whether it’s friendly service, the high-end flatware or the artwork in the waiting area, your restaurant has a story to share to appeal to Gen Z.

Investing efforts in technology, through mobile, social sharing and customer experience will pay off in an engaged customer from the country’s biggest demographic.  This article created in partnership with Georgia-Pacific Professional (GP PRO) and their work to Serve Greatness.

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