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CHICAGO — Enticing families with kids may be the U.S. restaurant industry's key to recapture visits lost during the recession, according to Parties with Kids: Motivating More Visits, a new market research report by The NPD Group. These families, which represent 32 present of U.S. households and $83.7 billion of total restaurant sales, made one billion fewer visits to U.S. restaurants over the past six years.
The cost of taking a family out to eat during difficult economic times is a barrier for many families, but it isn't the only one, according to NPD. Other key barriers that limit how often families dine out include value for the money; environment; convenience; and menu offerings. The environment is most important to parents, with 84 percent of those surveyed stating that they are much more or somewhat more likely to visit a restaurant if it offers a kid-friendly environment.
The age of a child is another factor in barriers to visits. Families with older kids place more importance on value since their appetites are changing, leading to them eating more and ordering outside the kids menu, and this makes it more expensive to dine out.
Families with younger kids care more about restaurant environments and menu offerings, since younger children need to be entertained and parents are more involved with what they eat, the report added.
"Restaurants are leaving money on the table by not capturing more families with kids visits," said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. "The good news is that there are solid tactics that operators can employ, with the help of manufacturers, in attracting families back to the dining table: emphasizing the value components of menus; creating a kid-friendly environment; offering fast and attentive service; and addressing food preferences kids have at different ages."