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Consumer Trends

Family meal deals

Bundling meals into family-size packages hits a consumer sweet spot.
snap kitchen boxes

Consumers order food to go about six times per month, according to Technomic’s Takeout & Off-Premise Dining Consumer Trend Report. While the bulk of sales—$55.5 billion in 2016—go to large-group catered events, there’s an opportunity to capture families, bridging a gap between catering and individual takeout meals. Women and millennials with children are particularly receptive to takeout, and touting bundled meals as an easy family dinner solution can help appeal to those groups. Here are a few lessons to learn from some early adopters.

Marketing to orderers

When the Dickeys—founders of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit—sat down as an extended family for dinner, they would cobble together a family-size meal from several other restaurants. Finally, they asked, “Why not offer our own?” says Emily Bennett, VP of regional marketing. So the chain launched what it calls home meal replacement—combos that feed four to 10 people—marketed as family packs. They now account for 10% to 12% of business, Bennett says.

While men tend to order the family packs of ribs and brisket for game day, 49% of Dickey’s customers are women—and the chain is actively reaching out to them. Recent focus groups revealed that “clean” proteins are a priority with female guests, and a new antibiotic-free chicken, smoked on-site, was rolled out last August to meet that request. “Through loyalty clubs, we see how often guests come in and what they order,” Bennett explains. “If we see they’re not ordering family packs, we target them with specials through social media, mobile and display campaigns.”

Family-pack sales have accelerated in the last two years, driven by these targeted marketing efforts, online ordering and the introduction of new proteins. A meal for four goes for $19.95. Customers can add a gallon jug of lemonade or sweet tea for another $8—a move that has helped capture beverage sales with takeout orders, says Bennett.

Bundling up value

Chicken chain Bojangles’ also overcomes the drinks to-go challenge by bundling in iced tea. The chain trademarked its Big Bo Box—an all-in-one carryout container designed with a spigot on top to pour tea, says Randy Poindexter, senior VP of marketing.  A typical Big Bo Box also holds fried chicken, biscuits and sides, and goes for $19 to $40 to feed four to 10 people. Bojangles’ marketing campaign stresses the convenience of the box—not just for tailgating (the bulk of its carryout business) but for every kind of group meal, says Poindexter.

Grab-and-go solutions

Family meals don’t always have to be for four-plus diners. Snap Kitchen, a fast casual that focuses solely on meals to go, is redefining family by marketing to young urban couples. The 35-unit concept—No. 4 in Restaurant Business’2016 Future 50 ranking of the fastest-growing small chains—packages meals in small, medium and large sizes ($7.50 and up), making it easy for couples to share.

Fast casual Flower Child is also banking on convenience, marketing grab-and-go family dinners. According to Sam Fox, head of parent Fox Restaurant Concepts, 25% of the food sold at Flower Child was purchased for takeout in its first few months of operation. Display cases in each of the five locations offer Family Dinners and Friends and Neighbors meals, each with a choice of protein and large sides to be shared. 

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