Kids Influence on Family Dining

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How Restaurants are Attracting Families with Children

Several examples of how restaurants are attracting families and children are offering adult meals in smaller portions, hosting kid-friendly happy hours, providing creative gifts to kids, partnering on kid-centric programming and making charitable donations.

ADULT MEALS, IN SMALLER PORTIONS

  • Some restaurants look to attract families with kids by addressing the desire of parents for their children to be "adventurous eaters."
  • Specifically, many independent restaurants now offer children adult food from the main menu, but in more child-friendly, smaller portions.
  • For example, at Chicago-based independent restaurant, Oyster Bah, children can order items including wild Alaskan cod fish and chips, a prime beef burger on a brioche bun or a breaded whole chicken breast.
  • Additionally, at NYC-based restaurant chain Blue Smoke, children less than ten can order from a kid's menu that includes dry-rubbed smoked chicken or chopped pork shoulder.
  • This strategy is validated by findings from global market research firm, NPD Group, which found that menu offerings are one of the most important factors for 86% of families with kids in choosing a restaurant.
  • Additionally, the menu options are particularly important for families with older generations of children, given that older children determine their restaurant preferences primarily based on what a restaurant serves.

KID-FRIENDLY HAPPY HOUR

  • Restaurants also look to attract families with kids by involving children in happy hour discounts.
  • Oyster Bah, for example, allows children to order from the kid's menu free of charge, while parents can order half-priced alcoholic drinks and other appetizers during happy hour events.
  • This strategy is similarly validated by NPD Group's finding that that menu offerings are one of the most important factors for 86% of families with kids in choosing a restaurant, and that menu options are particularly important for families with older children.

CREATIVE GIFTS

  • Gifts are another common approach for enticing families with children to dine at a restaurant.
  • For example, Oyster Bah offers children the option of free Goldfish crackers as well as a treat from a novelty toy chest following their meal.
  • In a particularly creative fashion, Blue Smoke allows child diners the option of decorating cookie dough in the shape of a pig; at the end of the meal, Blue Smoke then delivers the baked cookie alongside dessert.
  • The tactic of providing children creative gifts appears to be validated by research from NPD Group, which found that kid-friendly features are among the most important factors for 63% of families with kids in choosing a restaurant.
  • Additionally, kid-friendly features are particularly important for families with younger generations of children, who often determine their restaurant preferences based on factors other than just food choices.

KID-CENTRIC PROGRAMS

  • Programming or entertainment that is created with children in mind is another strategy for attracting families and children to dine at a specific location.
  • Notably, according to NPD Group, a restaurant's ambiance and kid-friendly features are among the two most important factors for 70% and 63% of families with kids, respectively, in choosing a restaurant.
  • Additionally, both kid-friendly entertainment and features are particularly important for families with younger children, who often determine their restaurant preferences based on factors other than just food choices.
  • As an example of this tactic, Blue Smoke partners with the adjacent Jazz Standard music club to attract children and their parents with a Jazz for Kids program on Sunday afternoons.

CHARITABLE DONATIONS

  • Some restaurants also attract families and by associating their kid-friendly offerings with more benevolent endeavors, such as charitable donations.
  • Blue Smoke, for example, donates $1 from each kids’ meal order to charitable organization, Operation BBQ Relief.
  • Notably, in 2017, the volume of meals by families with children at Blue Smoke resulted in a donation of more than $5,000 by the restaurant to Operation BBQ Relief.
  • Although this strategy is not specifically highlighted within research as an important factor in the selection of restaurants by families with children, the kid-centric nature of the charitable donation may contribute to perceptions of the restaurant's environment or kid-friendly ethos, both of which are highlighted as major motivations for restaurant selection by this cohort.

RESEARCH STRATEGY

Please note, a significant portion of the research from this analysis was obtained through an article from restaurant trade, Restaurant Hospitality. Although this article is available publicly, and without charge, it does require a free membership to access its full contents. As such, we have provided both the original article link, as well as the contents from a PDF of the article for reference as desired.
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