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Family Style: Foodservice Operations Innovate to Accommodate Young Families

Post 209_Honey mustard chicken 1More mouths to feed, different foodservice needs. While millennials may seem renowned primarily as a coveted youth demographic, the fact is they’re maturing—and their foodservice needs are evolving.

According to the market research firm Technomic, 47% of millennials surveyed are parents, and among older millennials (34-41) the number increases to 54%.1 Along with Gen Z, they are the heaviest users of foodservice,2 and now that they have not only entered into adulthood but started families, many millennials present a smorgasbord of opportunities and challenges for foodservice operators.

With a near majority of millennials now parents, a new set of traffic drivers that reflect the concerns and needs of today’s busy parenting lifestyle has emerged for this core demographic. Technomic data shows that to maximize millennial traffic, foodservice operations need to be kid-friendly, with better-for-you menu variety, new and exciting products  and digital order/payment options (mobile, kiosk or tabletop).3

While they are neck-and-neck with Gen Z when it comes to off-premise dining,4 they lead the pack in foodservice app usage.5 Given the busy millennial parent’s need for ease and convenience, it makes sense to emphasize and expand to go and delivery options.  

More Menu Innovation Needed? No Kidding!

Kid-friendly menu innovation is a must for both on- and off-premises dining, with 44% of millennials living with kids saying that updating children’s menus with more sophisticated items would motivate them to patronage restaurants more often.6

“It’s clear that millennial parents expect more than previous generations did in terms of kids menu offerings,” reports Technomic. “Operators can start by cleaning up menus with healthier options, and some may want to go the extra step and feature organic or all-natural dishes.”6 Technomic also suggests adding one or two adventurous options to the mix to stand out in the market’s blur of staples like chicken fingers and hot dogs.6

Research from the National Restaurant Association determined that nearly six out of 10 consumers consider whether a restaurant is family or child-friendly when deciding where to dine out.7

In addition to a better-for-you kids’ menu, Fast Casual, an online source of news and research for the fast casual restaurant category, recommends providing games or devices to keep kids occupied while waiting for food, training staff to serve young guests and having dedicated family nights.7 What’s more, because children can be especially susceptible to food-borne illnesses, food safety becomes all the more critical.7

Restaurant Operations Welcome Fresh Approaches into the Family

Of course, the frontline in the battle to win over families remains food, and restaurants are cooking up heaping helpings of culinary ingenuity to accommodate them.

Firebirds Wood Fried Grill, the Charlotte, N.C.-based casual steak chain with 49 locations, provides ample opportunities for customers to customize meals for kids and adults with “mix and match” entrees and two side dish options.

Headquartered in Coppell, Texas, the 550-unit pizza buffet chain Cicis Pizza, offers a budget-friendly kids’ buffet every Tuesday. As CEO Bill Mitchell explained, “Our key fundamentals have always been value, variety and fun in a welcoming environment.”8

Los Angeles-based fast-casual chain Tender Greens offers $7 “little plates” that allow kids to
choose a protein like salt-and-pepper grilled chicken, steak or fried chicken, which is paired with mashed potatoes, fruit or other side dishes.

Let our chefs elevate your children’s menu and make your operation more appetizing to families with recipes like our Savory Mac & Cheese with RITZ Crackers and Celebration Milkshake Made with OREO Cookie Pieces. For more information and customized solutions, reach out below.

1 Technomic, Generational Trend Report , 2018, p.20

2 Technomic, p. 40

3 Technomic, p. 60

4 Technomic, p. 22

5 Technomic, p. 74

6 Technomic, p. 76

7 Fast Casual, The Pros and Cons of Family-Friendly Restaurants, Sept. 6, 2018

8 Fantozzi, Joanna, "How 3 restaurant brands are updating their kids' menus," Nation's Restaurant News, Apr. 9, 2019

Topics: Millennials, Restaurant Operations, Trends, Recipe

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