Although the majority of them might still be in school, Generation Z already is wielding significant influence throughout the consumer marketplace. In a 2017 report released by UNiDAYS titled “Gen Z: What restaurants need to know,” the student affinity network details how these digital natives, which are projected to account for 40 percent of the U.S. population by 2020, engage with brands and how foodservice outlets can capitalize on that engagement.

In the report, UNiDAYS identifies Generation Z as those who were born in 1995 or later. In August 2017, the firm surveyed 1,800 verified student members in its U.S. network about their dining habits and preferences. Through this survey, UNiDAYS found that beyond tuition and bills, the majority (78 percent) of respondents’ money is spent on food. When this demographic dines out, nearly half of survey-takers indicated they spend between $10 and $20 on an order, while 15 percent said they spend $20 or more.

But if you want to reach these diners, foodservice outlets might want to forgo TV or display advertising as 41 percent of respondents said that they learn about new menu items when in the restaurant while 20 percent rely on social media networks. Nineteen percent named friends as their source of information.

In order to entice Generation Z to visit foodservice outlets, UNiDAYS reported that 93 percent of respondents indicated that they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers student discounts. In its assessment, the firm notes that this community-based incentive allows the brand to develop a holistic image of a consumer segment compared with standard loyalty programs.

With Generation Z estimated to yield $828 billion in spending power in the United States, it would behoove the consumer marketplace to learn how to engage with this demographic and understand when and where they spend their money.