Gen Z is eating out less because they have “menu anxiety”: they’re too afraid to talk to waiters, and an inflated bill scares them

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. For many people, this means socializing with friends and family and often going out to eat to mark the celebrations. The only problem is that around any given hybrid build table, there are likely to be some people who feel very uncomfortable with the situation.

Generation Z, currently aged 11 to 26, many still suffer from social anxiety after missing out on large gatherings in their formative years due to COVID-19 and lockdowns.

Research has found that this is even more acute in professional settings, with a 2023 report showing that nine in 10 graduates said they avoided in-person work events because of social anxiety, and nearly a quarter Feel uncomfortable speaking up and sharing your thoughts in team meetings.

But this social anxiety is also affecting young people’s social lives and even preventing them from enjoying eating out, according to a recently published study.

The study, conducted by British restaurant chain Prezzo, surveyed more than 2,000 people on their comfort levels when dining out. The most “menu anxious” group is Gen Z, with 34% of 18- to 24-year-olds admitting they asked someone else at the table to speak to the waiter on their behalf because they were too nervous to speak.

This number was significantly higher than the average level of customer anxiety, with the overall average of 21% among those who felt embarrassed about speaking to a waiter.

Young diners say they want to be prepared for this scenario, too. While about half of customers said they would check the menu before going out to eat, nearly 40% of Gen Z customers said they wouldn’t go out to eat at all if they couldn’t check the menu first.

This may help overcome some of the common fears survey respondents have when eating out: being overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices on the menu, mispronunciating a dish and feeling embarrassed, or worrying that they’re ordering the wrong dish compared to their peers. I regret purchasing the product.

impact of inflation

Another factor that makes customers anxious, perhaps understandably, is the total amount on the bill after the meal. Inflation is rising rapidly between 2021 and 2023, meaning many people emerging from lockdown countries are in for a surprise when they start dining out again.

In fact, according to the study, nearly a third of people aged 16 to 24 said they were nervous about the cost of their bill at the end of the night, compared with just 18% of those over 55. this ratio.

Bank of America’s Better Money Habits 2023 report, which surveyed more than 1,100 Gen Z, revealed that rising prices for dining out are one of the many reasons Gen Z is spending more time in their kitchens. The October report found that a majority (73%) of Gen Z are changing their lifestyle habits to spend less on items like gas and groceries.

While 40% decided to spend less on clothes and 33% limited their grocery stores to essentials, nearly half (43%) also reported cooking at home more than eating out in the last year, and Most of them cook at home regularly and chefs plan to continue this habit into 2024.

But Gen Z’s anxieties about food and eating aren’t purely due to social or financial interactions, it’s part of their broader concerns about the world and how they want to participate. For example, a study released this summer found that 61% of Gen Z grew up feeling anxious about what to eat because they had been stressed about it.

Ketchum Food Research’s report adds that 62% of Gen Z believe their eating pattern is “wrong” because it does not align with health or social values, creating a troubling gap between their beliefs and actions.

This story originally appeared on Fortune.com

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