As Red Robin pointed out, today’s families are facing steep competition for attention, whether around the dinner table or beyond. While 75 percent of parents said they understand their child’s interests, 44 percent of children feel their parents don’t get social media. Another 40 percent said they don’t think parents understand today’s music or movies, and one third believe they don’t empathize with what it’s like to be a kid today.
Red Robin’s response to this, in addition to an “All the Fulls” campaign, was to host in-store events like Family Date Night and Kids Choice Day.
According to Black Box Intelligence, family dining, fine dining, and upscale casual turned in the best results in Q4 of 2019. After a tough 2017, the industry insights platform said family dining in particular has enjoyed a resurgence of late.
Last May, Dine Brands (Applebee’s and IHOP parent) CEO Stephen Joyce said, “I'd like to put to rest false news about the death of casual family dining and the abandonment by millennials of the categories.”
Despite headlines to the contrary, he said, not only have millennials failed to stymie Applebee’s progress, they’re actually driving its growth. About half of its guests are under the age of 34. “And the last time I looked, those are millennials,” Joyce said.
To Joyce’s comment, according to Applebee’s data, only 26.4 percent of the chain’s current traffic hails from Baby Boomers, the generation credited by many as Applebee’s saving grace. Twenty-nine percent are millennials, 28.3 percent Gen X, and 15 percent Gen Z.
So, here’s the sweet spot the biggest casual-dining brands find themselves chasing today: Family dining, but with a millennial and updated twist. According to the NPD group, millennials with kids increased their restaurant visits by 5 percent from 2017 to 2018.
“Millennials are getting older and raising families. Just like the generations that preceded they lead hectic and busy lives and time is a limited and precious commodity,” David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor, told QSR. “Going to a restaurant and letting someone else do the cooking for you is an easy way to save effort and time.”
Last year, a special report by Morning Consult for The New York Times found that about half of millennials were parents. Of those without children, 42 percent said they wanted them, 34 percent said they were unsure, and 24 percent said they did not want children.
Assuming those who want children eventually have them, an estimated seven out of 10 millennials will be parents in the future. Add others from the currently undecided group and that portion could move closer to eight or nine out of 10.