By Emily Refermat
It pays to be prepared. That's why forward-thinking managers and retailers are looking to the next generation of US workers, Generation Z. This new population segment will force the workplace to evolve further, including how refreshment are delivered.
Who are the Gen Zers?
Generation Z is born after the Millennials. The NPD research group gives the birth year range as 1991 to 2014. According to estimates based on data from the US Census Bureau, that is nearly 33 percent of the US population, around 100 million people. In comparison, Millennials represent only 13.7 percent of the total US population. However, since the majority of Generation Z are still in elementary and high schools, it's early to be identifying preferences. About 43 million Gen Zers are between 15 and 24, and presumably in the workforce to some degree. These Gen Zers are more extreme versions of the Millennial in many ways, but also very different.
The Work-Life Smoothie
One of the defining ways the workplace will change is in how it serves employees. The idea of work-life balance, where employees need time and places to do personal things while at work began with the Millennials. Generation Z will take this concept even further. According to MTV research into what they called the "No Collar Workers," a majority of Millennials and Generation Z use a work-life smoothie approach. They quickly shift from working to personal tasks back to working, and often across multiple devices throughout the day. A full 70 percent cited needing "me time" at work compared to 39 percent of Boomers. And 71 percent view work colleagues as their second family.
This shifting of activities during the work day will result in flexible dining and break spaces. Operators will need to ensure that snack, beverage and food offerings cover a variety of day parts in order to meet the demands of this constantly influx consumer. In addition, the physical space will require areas that can provide employees a place to eat a snack and be social, but also the opportunity to work quietly alone, away from their desk. Operators will want to offer their services in helping locations design these areas.
A New York Times article last year interviewed an 18-year-old life blogger who summed up the Gen Z experience in multitasking. She is quoted in the article as saying that she can almost simultaneously create a document, edit it, post a photo on Instagram and talk on the phone, all from her iPhone. This means break areas will need to be designed to support technology as well. Operators will want to think about incorporating tablets into tables and counters as well as charging stations, extra outlets and even offering non food items, such as extra batteries and headphones.
The way this generation interacts with technology will also mean operators must make it a more native tool in the refreshment experience. Gen Zers never knew a time without touchscreens, social media or targeted apps. Workplace refreshment and services are going to have to keep up with this technology expectation by offering cutting edge touchscreens, digital signage and cashless payment options. Value and food preferences
This large, but young group of consumers is pushing food trends as well. Generation Z and Millennials are both more likely to opt for fresh foods than Baby Boomers, reports the NPD. Breakfast is the most common meal where fresh options, such as fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, are being consumed. Snacking is a close second.
The Gen Z consumers are looking for values like fresh or nutrition when it’s time to grab a snack, indicated the NPD research. Convenience is important, but so is better-for-you options as part of a meal or between meals. A Business Insider article citing the NPD research claims that salads in particular, will increase in consumption by Generation Z, followed by sandwiches and breakfast foods. Following these product trends will be crucial for micro market operators when deciding what to offer. It will also have an impact on the warehouse and delivery, as it will mean increased SKUs of products that appeal to a better-for-you and value focused consumer, in addition to traditional items. In the end, Gen Z loves snacking and wants more from the workplace, including refreshment. This offers operators a positive future if they can successfully deliver on the variety and design that Gen Z expects to see.