Myth #1: The broke college student
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College-age students are broke, no matter what the era, right? False. “Move past the broke student mentality,” advises UNiDAYS. “We often hear the phrase ‘poor college student,’ but it’s time to get over the misconception that students are completely broke.” The study concludes that Gen Z is not as down-and-out as we might’ve assumed. “For the most part…they still have more disposable income since they’re not yet faced with expenses like rent, a mortgage, utilities or children.” Ah, youth!
Myth #2: They spend as little as possible of their budget on food
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Good news for the food industry: 78 percent of Gen Z-ers surveyed told UNiDAYS that once tuition and bills are taken care of, the rest of their money goes to food, dining out specifically. “When they do eat out, Gen Z spends more dollars on average than what we typically expect of students,” the survey found. “Nearly half of those surveyed spend $10 to $20 on an order, and 15 percent spend $20 or more.”
Myth #3: Gen Z isn’t smart with their money
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Just because Gen Z is willing to shell out for quality food doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate value offers, according to the study: “They have money to spend, but want to be careful about how they spend it.” Compared to previous generations (Material Girls and Boys?), “Gen Z has already proven to be more financially savvy and responsible.”
Myth #4: It’s too hard to market to such a diverse group individually
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Communities where Gen Z-ers are engaged—real-life and online communities for yoga, spinning, animal rescue, volunteering, civic groups, etc.—can be a scalable starting point for marketing that makes this generation feel special (a basic need of all generations), allowing you to gather info at the same time. “Deliver an exclusive offer to a community where Gen Z is an engaged member,” UNiDAYS advises. “While loyalty programs are undoubtedly a rich source of data, they tend to be skewed towards your best customers. Being able to get a complete picture of a particular audience segment will help you better identify consumer behaviors and preferences.”
Myth #5: Once you have a decent Facebook and Instagram page, you’re all set
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41 percent of Gen Z-ers surveyed say they learn about new menu items through social media networks. However, “while social networks and word of mouth are key, that’s not enough to capture Gen Z’s attention,” according to UNiDAYS. “A whopping 93 percent of students surveyed said they are more likely to try a restaurant that offers student discounts. Brands who embrace this feedback will stand out in a sea of noise.”
Myth #6: Meals are habitual for Gen Z
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“Today’s students are somewhat open minded and spontaneous when it comes to eating out, suggesting that a well-timed, well-placed offer could easily draw them in,” according to the survey, which found that 48 percent of respondents would try a new quick-service restaurant chain once a month, and only 5 percent said they plan their meals in advance. UNiDAYS recommends taking advantage of that spontaneity and openness with mobile push alerts for promotions of menu items, since Gen Z-ers rarely leave home without a phone or other mobile device, allowing opportunities to reach them anytime and anywhere.
Myth #7: College kids don’t venture past their meal plan
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Almost 48 percent of survey respondents don’t have campus meal plans, 63 percent buy all of their own food and 18 percent regularly go out to eat even if they have meal plans. The main competition for dining halls? Not to start a town-and-gown debate, but it’s local restaurants that offer student discounts (78 percent of students say they take advantage of these types of special offers) are competition for onsite campus dining, home cooking does not appear to be with Gen Z. Although almost all respondents have access to kitchens, less than half that do (43 percent) prepare meals often at home, and 14 percent said they never cook at home.