What “Family-Friendly” Restaurants Mean to Millennial Parents

Just like that Millennials are all grown up and having kids of their own, and with this new life stage comes an exciting opportunity for foodservice providers as this group is developing a whole new set of consumer needs and preferences for their dining experiences.

According to Millennial Marketing, there are approximately 10.8 million Millennial households living with children. Millennials account for 80 percent of the four million U.S. births each year. In the next decade, 80 percent of U.S. Millennials (60 million people) will become parents.

It’s also well-documented that the largest generation in history has a sizeable amount of spending power. Born between 1980 and 2000, Millennials have an estimated $2 trillion in global buying potential. In particular, Millennial families currently spend $1 trillion each year on their children and that figure is expected to grow, according to a Goldman Sachs report published in Fortune.

So what does all this mean for foodservice providers? Opportunity. Find out how slight adjustments to your foodservice offering will make your brand more attractive to this emerging consumer powerhouse.

Offer convenience with quality

Millennials’ tastes start to change after they’ve had kids. While fast food and quick service establishments were once their go-to restaurants of choice (McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc.), Millennials with children are looking for higher quality food with the same level of convenience when they eat out. As a result, they’re migrating to fast casual dining experiences.

Panera Bread helped ingratiate itself with Millennials through a progressive redesign that introduced digital ordering kiosks in several restaurants to reduce line-ups and wait times for food. An establishment that provides digitally enhanced services that offer convenience and improved service is a win-win for this digital-savvy generation.

Restaurants that can marry quality food with convenience will be a hot spot for Millennial parents.

Provide healthy options

Millennials are making healthier food choices than previous generations. According to a PLMA study, six out of 10 Millennials claim to eat healthier foods and half use more organic products than their parents. A 2015 Morgan Stanley report on the dining habits of Millennials, published in Business Insider, reached the same conclusion. The study found that “Millennials’ dining habits are drastically different from their parents.” Not only are they eating out more often, but they have a very different definition of healthy: natural, organic, locally grown or produced, and good for the environment.

A consumer research study, commissioned by the Corn Refiners Association and conducted by Ipsos and BuzzFeed, discovered that Millennial parents are more concerned about health and more prepared to sacrifice taste than non-parents. The study, featured in FSR Magazine, found that 28 percent of Millennial parents believe it’s worth sacrificing taste for healthier options, compared to 17 percent of non-parents.

However, 33 percent still choose taste as their number one qualifier when selecting a restaurant.

“Regardless of whether they are parents or not, the number one factor in choosing a restaurant is always taste,” said Sara Martens, vice president of the MSR Group and GenerationWhy research analyst, in FSR Magazine.

Millennial parents’ interest in healthier foods is especially true when it comes to their children. Restaurants popular with parents offer a range of healthy options, not just healthier versions of the regular fast food fare. In a survey of 40 U.S. restaurant chains, Parents magazine found that while soda, fries and chicken nuggets remained staples, there were several healthy items on the kids’ menu: 88 percent of the menus offered milk, 48 percent had fruit, 45 percent included salad, and 38 percent contained broccoli.

If healthy food is a priority for Millennial parents, it should also be a priority for restaurants who want to attract them.

Make it affordable

In a Technomic survey, nearly half of parents polled (49 percent) visit family-style restaurants at least once a week. And 63 percent of Millennials surveyed say they do so in search of a sit-down meal at an affordable price. As Millennials eat out more than the general population, affordability remains a key differentiator when selecting somewhere to eat with their family.

Make it customizable

Millennials love brands that allow them to customize everything – think Chipotle and Starbucks. According to Millennial Marketing, “Millennials constantly seek out ways to make products more unique for them and are willing to pay the premium for brands that follow through. Especially when it comes to menu items.” So it only makes sense for restaurant brands to extend that customization to their children.

At pizza restaurant chain Uno Chicago Grill, kids can play chef by making their own pizza at their table. They are given their own apron, flatbread dough, sauce, cheese, and toppings to build their own pie.

As more and more Millennials become parents, it’s time for restaurants to reevaluate their “family-friendly” services and offerings to meet the specific needs of this lucrative customer segment.