18 Aug 2023Read of the weekRead of the week: young diners have ‘menu anxiety’

Younger diners are more likely to feel overwhelmed by 'menu anxiety' when dining out – where they struggle being overwhelmed with choice. As overstimulation bleeds out of digital spaces into offline experiences, people are seeking stability and simplicity in all walks of life.

J’Nae PhillipsJ'Nae Phillips is an Insights Editor at Canvas8. After an early career working in fashion and media, her passion for culture and journalism grew and she made the transition to writing and editing full-time. She specialises in fashion, trends, cultural shifts and all of the good stuff that gets people talking.

As digital realities become more closely intertwined with our everyday lives, digital spaces have been known to bombard online audiences with endless options. This feeling of overwhelm is now spilling out from people's digital consciousness into their IRL experiences, as Gen Zers and Gen Y are struck by ‘menu anxiety’ which is a term that refers to overstimulation when ordering at restaurants — a feeling that is becoming more and more common.

According to a survey conducted by OnePoll in partnership with Avocado Green Mattress, 41% of Gen Zers and Yers in the US admit to experiencing menu anxiety when ordering food. The catch? It's not just about the sheer number of options available; specific words on the menu can also influence ordering decisions as terms like 'vegan' and 'vegetarian' affect restaurant behaviours. About 34% of Zers and Yers said they're more likely to order dishes with these labels, while only 17% of Gen Xers and Boomers felt the same way. Taste remains the king overall, as 71% of all survey respondents agreed that it's the most critical factor when choosing a meal followed by cost at 57%.

Menu anxiety mirrors the feeling of overwhelm many active social media users experience. With so much information available at people's fingertips, it can be hard to know what to focus on. But in the realm of food, brands are taking note and making changes as they simplify and clearly signpost on their menus. This has led to the rise of no-frills, casual dining establishments that prioritise quality and convenience without breaking the bank. Dining experiences are becoming straightforward and easy to navigate, battling the rise of menu anxiety head-on through a paired-back approach to eating out.