I'd like to understand the latest trends in family dining, particularly around fast-casual seafood restaurants like Long John Silver's.

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I'd like to understand the latest trends in family dining, particularly around fast-casual seafood restaurants like Long John Silver's.

Hello, and thanks for asking for the latest trends in family dining, especially in fast-casual restaurants. The short answer is that the next generation of millennial parents focus on more healthy food, more choice, and like to engage with restaurants online. You will find a deep dive of my findings below.

By searching through industry reports and trusted media sites, the latest trends in casual dining were identified and distilled into a list. This included a case study of IHOP's particular success and analysis of the success factors of the casual restaurants with the highest sales per unit for 2016.

31% of the US adult population are millennials and they make up 34% of the US workforce. At the same time, millennial women accounted for 82% of all US births in 2015. According to a study by Crowdtap, more than 60 million millennials will become parents in the next decade. They are also surpassing baby boomers in buying power, projected to spend $200 billion in 2017 as a generation. The focus of the fast-casual restaurant industry and trends in this industry is therefore on millennials, as they are changing the way Americans eat out.

Millennial parents’ biggest concerns are what their children eat and the environment. 52% of millennial parents say they closely monitor their children’s diet and 64% say the environment is a top concern as parents.


1. High-quality food even if it's at a higher price: The "super-sized, all-you-can-eat" approach of the 1990's and 2000's is no longer effective. Millennial parents are willing to pay more, but expect good, healthy food in return for this. This approach is very successful for brands such as Chipotle and Panera Bread.

2. Customized Menu: Millennials brought menu customization to the restaurant industry and they expect the same to be available for their children. Families will be drawn by a menu where adults and children can substitute and have some room to swap items in and out of dishes. For examine, IHOP has included "add a side" boxes next to menu items to allow customers more choice.

3. Be online: 65% of social media conversations are about where to eat. Social media campaign such as Denny's "The Grand Slams" online video series in 2016 led to the chain's highest same-store sales and traffic growth in over a decade.

4. Entertainment for children: Millennial parents are more likely to choose their restaurant based on their children's preference. 60% of millennial parents are highly satisfied when their kids pick the dining location. Measures to attract children such as specialized kid’s menus, and personalized reusable kid’s tumblers with logos, cartoon and super hero characters have proven to be very successful.

5. Flexible hours: The trend to visit traditional casual-dining restaurants later at night is increasing, especially after 10 p.m. 40% of late-night snacking occasions at full-service restaurants are with friends, while 21% do this for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For example, Michigan-based Hofbrauhaus now stays open well after midnight on the weekends.

6. Delivery combined with technology: According to the report by Technomic, "Future of FSR: Family & Casual Dining Consumer Trend Report," even though delivery accounts for between 7% and 8% of orders at casual-dining chains at the moment, many traditional chains are considering and testing delivery combined with technology to keep up with changing behaviors. This includes Buffalo Wild Wings, The Cheesecake Factory, Applebee’s and Chili’s. And, according to Forbes, chains like Panera, Starbucks, Chipotle and Domino’s are adding delivery-only venues to accommodate this changing behavior.

7. Optimized Menus: One of IHOP's success factors was removing items from their menu that were not performing. With shorter menus and more options to customize an order, the decluttered menus actually drove sales at IHOP. The same strategy was implemented very successfully by Joe's Crab Shack.

8. Brunch: The Technomic report, "Future of FSR: Family & Casual Dining Consumer Trend Report," found hat brunch is an increasing trend in fast-casual restaurants since 2014. IHOP also started targeting "breakfastarians," or people who eat breakfast all day. Of all of IHOP's breakfast orders, 50% happen at lunch or dinner.

9. Online marketing campaigns that entertain: This has been done very successfully by Denny's in their "The Grand Slams" online video series featuring breakfast foods.

10. Healthy foods: Nielsen Perishables Group report that 30% of millennials eat certified organic foods. The National Restaurant Association also reported that 81% of adults are noticing more healthy options available on restaurant menus.

Millennials are becoming the next generation of parents that take their children to family restaurants. Millennial parents focus on more healthy food, more choice, and like to engage with restaurants online while they also allow their children to choose the restaurants they go to.

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