Gen Z Faces Menu Anxiety Epidemic: Fear of Dining Out Takes Center Stage

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Menu Anxiety Epidemic

A new study conducted by British restaurant chain Prezzo reveals that a surprising majority of Generation Z individuals are grappling with a “menu anxiety epidemic” when dining out. The research, which included responses from over 2,000 participants, aimed to gauge the level of enjoyment people experience while eating in public settings.

The findings paint a stark picture, with approximately 86% of Gen Z adults (aged 18 to 24) admitting to suffering from “menu anxiety” during restaurant visits, compared to 67% of respondents across all age groups.

This pervasive fear has given rise to unique behaviors, including 34% of young adults confessing to asking others at the table to communicate with waitstaff on their behalf due to the intensity of their anxiety.

Dean Challenger, CEO of Prezzo, commented on the study, noting, “[While] most people look forward to dining out during the [holiday] season, we know — as our research shows — it can be stressful for some.”

Study To Understand Menu Anxiety Epidemic

One striking aspect of this anxiety is its specificity, often linked to concerns about the rising cost of dining out and the apprehension of not finding something appealing on the menu. Additionally, post-meal regret plays a role in exacerbating this fear. The study reveals that almost 40% of Gen Z individuals admitted they would forego going out for dinner if they couldn’t peruse the menu beforehand.

A similar study conducted in the United States echoed these findings, uncovering that three in 10 Americans grapple with “menu anxiety,” with Gen Z individuals displaying higher levels of nervousness than older generations. This survey, which included 2,000 adults, indicated that younger generations, particularly Gen Z and millennials (aged 18–43), were significantly more likely to experience anxiety while ordering—41% compared to only 15% of Gen X and baby boomers (aged 44–77).

This growing trend of “menu anxiety” aligns with broader reports of heightened anxiety levels among Gen Z. Gabriel Rubin, Professor of Justice Studies at Montclair State University, recently conducted a study revealing that Gen Z is more afraid of the world than previous generations. Rubin attributes this anxiety to a combination of factors, including the digital native status of Gen Z and the impact of COVID-19, which has hindered their development of crucial in-person social skills.

“Because so many Gen Zers are anxious and because so many have trouble in non-digital social spaces, even activities as simple as ordering food sometimes become things to be avoided,” explained Rubin.

The findings suggest that beyond the immediate concerns about dining out, Gen Z’s anxiety extends to various aspects of their lives, impacting what were once considered routine and enjoyable activities. The phenomenon of “menu anxiety” sheds light on the broader challenges faced by this generation in navigating social situations and making choices, reflecting a larger societal shift in attitudes towards dining out and the associated stressors.

As the world continues to grapple with the evolving preferences and challenges of Generation Z, industries, including hospitality, may need to adapt to accommodate these changing dynamics and find innovative ways to make dining out a more inclusive and stress-free experience for all age groups.


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