A new study analysing the dining habits of UK families has revealed that restaurateurs are hiring staff with childcare experience in order to accommodate the family dining market. It’s a strategy that recognises the 1.7 million* kids in the UK preferring dining out as a marked improvement to their parents’ home cooking.
The research, conducted by Caterer.com, found that the family dining market has evolved to a point where over half (57%) of the revenue of the restaurateurs surveyed came from families alone. 92% of restaurants see their establishments as family-friendly, when more than half (63%) look for staff with childcare experience, offer one-off training (19%), or regular childcare training (58%) in order to deal with families.
Parents are grateful for this support, as 32% struggle to get their children to behave at restaurants. Nevertheless, dining out is used by parents as a way to reward their kids (53%) or spend quality time together (51%) – which also brings a smile to the faces of restaurateurs, as 92% enjoy seeing families dining and spending time together.
Despite more than a third (35%) of parents claiming that the cost of dining presents a barrier to eating out as a family, UK families don’t seem to mind forking out a healthy average of £42 per family meal, or £2,184 a year.
The Big Kids Menu Debate
Restaurateurs are working to support the family dining market by keeping things fresh and changing their children’s menus up to four times a year. As a result half of the parents surveyed (50%) were against scrapping children’s menus altogether. Almost half (49%) of children still enjoy the kids’ menu too, only requesting minimal changes such as more options to choose from (47%) and the ability to customise their meals (33%).
Despite these efforts, 67% of parents felt restaurants needed to accommodate families better, and almost two thirds of parents (61%) didn’t think kids’ menus were up to scratch when it came down to offering a variety of food options.
Consequently, almost two thirds of the parents surveyed (65%) thought there needed to be a shake-up in kids menus. Three quarters (74%) specifically wanted the kids’ menu to simply mirror the adults’ menu, but with smaller portions, and one in four (28%) wanted it scrapped altogether.
Four in five (79%) parents thought that eating out was important in order for their children to try new foods, with Japanese, Thai and Mexican cuisines found to be rising stars for kids. As a result, less than half (49%) of children said they liked the more restricted kids’ menu.
Even so, the kids menu classics are still ruling supreme, with the top five listed by families as:
- Pizza (49%)
- Burgers (38%)
- Fish fingers (38%)
- Nuggets and chips (38%)
- Roast dinner (26%)
Neil Pattison, Sales Director of Caterer.com comments on the report: “We’re thrilled to see that despite some of the challenges that family dining can present, families are dining out more often than before without breaking the bank. This is thanks to the hard work of restaurateurs up and down the country to ensure they are offering flexible and varied menu options for children.
“Restaurants are already actively employing and training staff to specifically cater for families and young children, and it’s vital that they maintain this commitment in order to provide more families with a safe and welcoming space to enjoy a meal together.”
Sarah Wheatley, Head of Brand Marketing at TGI Fridays said: “We love nothing more than to welcome the whole family through our doors. Alongside our tasty menu offering, our team members go above and beyond to make the dining experience as engaging, exciting and memorable as possible, right down to making balloon animals at the table. It’s little touches like these that keep the kids entertained, leaving parents to enjoy themselves, and inspire guests to keep coming back for more.”
Miranda Godfrey, Senior Lecturer for Escoffier Grand Diploma Course at Westminster Kingsway College commented: “Eating out with my family is a treat that is valued and appreciated by all of us. Dining out of the home provides memories that I want to create for them in a positive way. Children are of course future customers who will no doubt be taking their children out in years to come. Being able to recall, discuss and share positive stories promotes the good actions of restaurants who are acknowledging the value of family dining. As a Mother and a chef I am looking forward to seeing restaurants adapt and grow to accommodate this ever growing culture for eating out as a family unit.”