CHICAGO — Older Gen Z consumers (18 to 24 years old) are more likely to choose fast casual, quick-service restaurants compared to older consumer groups, according to recent data from market research firm The NPD Group.

Of the 5 billion restaurant visits by Gen Z consumers from July 2021 to July 2022, researchers found the vast majority of visits were to quick-service restaurants, roughly 4.3 billion.

With more interests competing for their dollar than any previous generation, price and perceived value appear to be the main factors behind Gen Z’s restaurant choices.

Over half of Gen Z respondents in the study said higher menu prices impacted their restaurant visits, and value price points have grown exceedingly important in what items they choose.

Gen Zs also prefer chains that tap into their interests, via messaging and menu items, particularly in sustainability and plant-based or organic foods.

Over 18% of Gen Zs look for organic options on menus, compared to 12% of consumers over 25, and 16% prefer sustainably sourced foods, compared to 11% in older groups.

The NPD data is consistent with other research from the International Food Information Council, indicating Gen Z’s uniquely increased interest in sustainability.

David Portalatin, a food industry adviser with NPD, said restaurant operators can help their brand resonate with Gen Z consumers by developing creative spins on classic foods, using relevant messaging and finding ways to generate value beyond simply price.

“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,” Mr. Portalatin said.