How Restaurant Expectations Vary with Age

How Restaurant Expectations Vary with Age

When it comes to restaurant preferences, there are differences between younger and older generations’ expectations of the dining experience. This was recently noted in the 2023 State of the Restaurant Industry report released by the National Restaurant Industry.  The report, which covers off on Gen Z adults (18-26), millennials (27-42), Gen Xers (43-58) and baby boomers (59 and above), details plenty of commonalities. But where they differ is likely going to be a key indicator of dining trends going forward.

Pandemic Convenience

Pandemic trends that were introduced by restaurants (think delivery, takeout options, etc.) are still well-loved by 66 percent of adults, who note they’re more likely now to order takeout than they were prior to the pandemic. But when we look at Gen Z adults and millennials, 70 percent say the same thing; only 50 percent of baby boomers agree. We see similar numbers when it comes to delivery: 55 percent of all adults claim to be more likely to have food delivered than before the pandemic; 60 percent of Gen Z, 64 percent of millennials, and 44 percent of baby boomers agree.


When it comes to restaurant technology, the numbers are even further apart as the age gap widens. Gen Z adults and millennials are more likely to frequent restaurants that employ technology solutions for ordering food and paying the check. Baby boomers and Gen Xers prefer restaurants that don’t rely so heavily on new tech—this includes using a digital wallet, smartphone apps, and self-serve payment kiosks. And delivery via drone? Count the Gen Z adults and millennials in for anything that involves a drone, robot, or delivery vehicles that drive themselves.


Nearly 2/3 of our younger generations are into the idea of tasting menus or chef’s table experiences, but the baby boomers would rather pass (just 1/3 of them are on board). Gen Z adults and millennials also love the idea of ordering several-course meals for takeout, diving into the meal subscription trend, or using meal kits from services or restaurants. They also love restaurant swag—hats, shirts, glasses, you name it, and the youths want to buy it. As far as the environment goes, sustainability is a key driver in bringing younger generations to the table: more than the baby boomers, these folks prefer restaurants with an eye on sustainability and the environment.

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