Restaurant Opportunity: Catch More Families with Kids

CHICAGO – Still struggling to recapture dwindled visits since the recession, the American restaurant industry may want to focus on wooing families with kids. Families with kids, which represent 32 percent of U.S. households and $83.7 billion of total restaurant sales, made 1 billion fewer visits to U.S. restaurants over the past six years, according to food researcher The NPD Group.

Families have several barriers to eating out: value for the money, the environment, convenience, and menu offerings. Most important to parents is the environment. Eighty-four percent of parents surveyed for NPD's Parties with Kids, Motivating More Visits report state they are much more or somewhat more likely to visit a restaurant if it offers a kid-friendly environment.

Families with older kids place more importance on value since these kids' appetites are changing – eating more, ordering outside the kids menu – making it more expensive to dine out. Families with younger kids care more about the restaurant environment and menu offerings because younger diners need to be entertained and parents are more involved with what their kids eat.

"Restaurants are leaving money on the table by not capturing more families with kids visits," says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. "The good news is that there are solid tactics that operators can employ, with the help of manufacturers, in attracting families back to the dining table: emphasizing the value components of menus; creating a kid-friendly environment; offering fast and attentive service; and, addressing food preferences kids have at different ages."

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