According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2019 State of the Restaurant Industry report, 39% of adults say they’re not eating on-premises at restaurants as often as they’d like. For restaurants trying to attract more traffic, that’s good news—after all, operators just need to offer what consumers want and they’ll flock in, right?
Of course, it’s not that easy. But increasing traffic from families might be easier than it seems. According to The NPD Group, millennials with children increased their restaurant visits by 5% in 2018 compared to the prior year—and that’s an increase in comparison to flat traffic growth for the restaurant industry overall.
So why are younger families dining out more, and how can restaurants increase family-dining traffic? The answer centers around the idea that families are busier than ever, so outsourcing meal prep and cooking is becoming more popular. With that in mind, restaurants can increase family traffic by both optimizing and promoting kids menus—even for restaurants that aren’t family-dining concepts.
According to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, just 32% of restaurants currently offer a kids menu—but that’s up 5.6% from five years ago, showcasing an upward trend in restaurants catering to younger families. And according to Technomic’s 2018 Generational Consumer Trend Report, one of the biggest traffic drivers for millennials is a kids menu that’s healthy and offers a wide variety. As more millennials have children, they’ll be looking for restaurants with kids menus when they dine out. In the end, they’re likely to choose the place where they, their fellow diners and their kids can all order something they’ll like—making kids menus a traffic-driver for customers in general, not just families.
For instance, if a group of couples want to go out, and only one of the couples has kids, typical kid-friendly spots might not be at the top of their list. Restaurants can edge out competitors by offering a variety of kid favorites, such as Goldfish® crackers, alongside the options parents want.
At the Cheesecake Factory—a chain known for its expansive menu—kids menu options not only include the requisite fried chicken strips and mini corn dogs, but also wholesome options such as grilled salmon or grilled chicken served with potatoes and a vegetable. It’s the perfect restaurant option for groups that like variety—the restaurant’s menu boasts more than 250 items, made from scratch every day.
At PF Chang’s, little diners can order a kids-sized portion of sweet & sour chicken or the Baby Buddha’s Feast, featuring snap peas, carrots and broccoli and served with quinoa or rice, while their parents share orders of the restaurant’s trademark Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Mongolian Beef or Crispy Honey Shrimp. And at Chili’s, kids can nosh on Pepper Pals Kids Menu options such as Cheesy Chicken Pasta, Cheeseburger Bites or Grilled Chicken Dippers, while the adults indulge in fajitas and one of the chain’s signature margaritas.
For restaurants that want to maintain a competitive edge, it’s crucial to offer options for kids, even if the restaurant is not a traditionally “kid-friendly” one. By catering to parents’ needs, it only follows that repeat business, as well as incremental traffic from their child-free peers, will increase traffic over time.
This post is sponsored by Campbell's Foodservice