The Changing Dynamic of Millennial Parents in Restaurants

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Parenting is a stressful endeavour at the best of times. As a father of three, my day-to-day routine includes chaperoning, organizing play dates, managing childcare, scheduling and coordinating after-school activities and, of course, meal planning.

Meal planning is often the one responsibility that we, as parents, dread the most. Throw in dietary restrictions, food preferences and the desire to incorporate fresh, healthy foods and meal planning can become a real source of stress for parents. Not surprisingly, many parents are tempted to incorporate regular foodservice visits into their routines to help ease the burden of meal prep. While this tendency is nothing new, we’ve seen some interesting changes when it comes to how millennial parents are managing meal time.

For millennials, in-home meal times tend to be much less structured compared to other generations. Millennials spend close to half the time preparing meals compared to Gen X and are more likely to purchase home-meal replacements from retail or subscribe to a meal-kit delivery service. When it comes to out-of-home meals, millennial parents are also more likely to seek out foodservice locations that offer a drive-thru, take-out or delivery option.

Millennial parents do factor in their kids’ preferences, but are less motivated to do so compared to other generations. While Gen X is heavily motivated by whether or not their kids “like” a specific restaurant, millennial parents tend to consider other factors when making their decision, such as whether or not they themselves frequent that location, whether the restaurant is budget friendly and what menu items are offered. They’re also much more likely to seek out convenient meal solutions, given their lack of time and busy lifestyles.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of these visits when it comes to a restaurant’s bottom line. Visits with kids represent 131 million visits annually, growing on average by 12 per cent since 2014, along with driving $901 million in sales, growing by 16 per cent on average. This is in stark contrast to the flat traffic and dollar growth observed in total commercial foodservice. During the same time period, Gen X has been starting to phase out of parenthood. While they drive more traffic and dollars (164 million visits and $1.3 billion, respectively), traffic has softened to a one-per-cent compound-annual-growth rate decrease since 2014.

So how can an operator make their offerings more attractive to millennial parents? They can start by focusing on attributes such as convenience, technology (digital ordering, et cetera), healthy offerings and ensuring a family friendly environment that caters to both kids and parents.

Written by Robert Carter

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