Families with kids are staying away from restaurants

Years ago it was fairly typical for the American family to dine-out regularly – at least once a week.

But since 2008, restaurant visits by families with children under the age of 13 have steeply declined according to a foodservice market report recently released by The NPD Group entitled, “Parties with Kids: Motivating More Visits.”

It seems families made 1 billion fewer visits to U.S. restaurants over the past six years then compared to adults-only, who made 306 million fewer visits – a considerable difference. And, both lower and higher income households contribute to the sharp decline, not just one or the other.

The report reveals that total restaurant sales have dropped across all food segments and meal periods, though dinner time seems to have been hit the hardest. To put things in perspective, restaurant visits by families account for 20% of sales or $83.7 billion.

Bonnie Riggs, NPD foodservice industry analyst says, “In order to bring back parties with kids to the restaurant table, operators and manufacturers need to understand what influences and motivates them to visit. They need to keep in mind that kids are also an important audience since they have considerable influence on restaurant selections.”

While many restaurants have focused their marketing efforts on a more demanding, more sophisticated consumer with healthier meal alternatives, upscale beverages and innovative flavorings, they’ve lost sight of how influential children can be when mom and dad are considering dining-out.

While an unstable economy certainly plays a role in the decline, other factors include the overall value-per-dollar and how kid-friendly the environment appears. Parents need to feel comfortable bringing their children into a restaurant, without worrying their child is going to break something.