Catering for the future – how Gen Z will transform the workplace

15/10/2019 - 05:00
Born in the mid 90s, Generation Z have now come of age to enter the workplace; following in the steps of their Baby Boomer, Generation X and Millennial predecessors, this generation are changing the way we do everything from eating to socialising, Melissa Moody explores.

They’re a social-savvy group who are the first to never know a world without technology. They’ll be instrumental in impacting and shaping the political and economic future, which is why Nestle Professional have produced a report, Cater for the Future, detailing how caterers can adapt for whatever may lay ahead.

It’s estimated that Gen Z, described as those born between 1996 and 2010, will account for 24% of the global workforce, and by 2030, Millennials (born between 1991-95) and Gen Z combined will account for 75% of the workforce.

The research found that Gen Z are more socially and economically minded. 60% said that they want to positively impact the future of the world and impact through social activism, while 74% would talk to others about a brand that speaks about something they care about.

Their consumption is more personalised and ethical, where the sky is the limit. Compared to millennials who prefer to communicate online at work, Gen Z would choose face-to-face. They’ve been hailed as collaborators and practically focused with a strong digital fluency compared to previous generations. Millennials, by comparison are more opportunistic entrepreneurs who are tech-savvy but more goal orientated, whilst Gen X (1961-80) are considered workplace problem-solvers with a focus on strong managerial skills and whose consumption is centred around status, branded objects and luxury items.

“Generation Z has the potential to re-set expectations for the workplace,” says Mintel’s 2018 report ‘The Future of Food and Drink Innovation’. With information on hand 24/7, Gen Z have had their eyes open to what is available.  48% have a money or payment app on their phones while 41% say they learn about new menu items through social media networks.  For caterers to keep up, they should consider introducing digital solutions such as apps for a customer base that is increasingly technology-focused.

The future of the workplace lies with Gen Z and caterers will need to get ahead of the shift that the group will represent. As they grow and evolve over the coming years, their needs will evolve too and the best way to understand their changing requirements is to keep ahead of industry trends, review purchase behaviour, and ask for regular feedback and improvements to products and services offered.

Making a mark

They care about our society and planet. Their desire to work for organisations with a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) is the second most important factor when choosing a job, Sodexo found in it’s Aspirations of Generation Z report.

Gen Z wants to make their mark by making our society better than past generations. Caterers should have a robust CSR policy, clearly defining their approach to key social and environmental concerns will only make their offering hold more appeal.

They should also look at how the work schedule itself is also changing. With flexible working on the rise, less people are in the office. To prepare for a lower footfall on Fridays, caterers could consider either introducing a food and beverage delivery option, or even a meal takeaway service on a Thursday evening so employees can enjoy a nutritious balanced meal when they’re working out of the office.

Health and Wellbeing

Along with a more conscious mindset has been the growing popularity of health and wellness within food.  Mintel pointed out that: “Generation Z has come of age at a time when health and wellness is a major consideration.”

The pressure to ‘look good’ has an impact on how Gen Z feel, what they eat and what they drink; and they’re increasingly aware of what they’re putting into their bodies and the impact it will have on both their image and their wellbeing. To this point, the provenance, ingredients and health benefits need to be clearly communicated on the food and drink they’re consuming in order for them to consider purchase.

Caterers should consider shifting to a plastic-free environment, promoting ‘meat-free Mondays’ or going vegan for January. 50% of people consider themselves flexitarian and Gen Z are open to trying different ways of eating, based on what they’ve seen, read and watched online. Growth in veganism and paleo diets is driven in part by loggers and Instagram influencers.

Everything in moderation

Gen Z move fast, stay up later and wake earlier, meaning they want all types of food to be available to them during any part of the day. The lines separating breakfast, lunch and dinner times are getting blurred and this generation enjoys building meals by putting together a number of snacks rather than having just one item on a plate at a certain time.

For caterers, giving customers the ability at work to order online via a website or app is key to offering flexibility and meals that are transportable and takeaway friendly.

Be sustainable

Consumers are looking for more natural and sustainable options when they choose what they eat, both in terms of ingredients and packaging. They are aware of past generation’ impact on the planet and they aren’t waiting for others to fight issues like climate change – they’re taking action.

Educating consumers and providing environmentally friendly products is a powerful source of loyalty because two thirds think brands that make a public promise to be sustainable are more trustworthy, and over half say that if they realise that a brand or product isn’t environmentally friendly, they’re likely to switch to one that is.

Generation Z has the world at its fingertips, the report says. It’s a world that is changing at an ever-increasing pace and caterers need to work out how to keep up. 

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