Catering to Families: The Untapped Potential in the Restaurant Industry

As the restaurant industry faces multifaceted challenges, ranging from new minimum wage laws to reputational hurdles, a new hero has emerged: families with children. 

Despite a general decline in dining frequency, families have shown resilience and an increased appetite for dining out, according to Revenue Management Solutions' Q1 Consumer Survey, “Dining Dynamics in 2024: The Shifting Landscape of Consumer Tastes.”

The survey's insights offer a glimmer of hope for an industry in search of sustainable growth strategies. While 38 percent of the survey’s 1,600 respondents report spending less on dining out—with plans to continue curbing spending across all channels—families are bucking the trend by ordering from restaurants more frequently and in larger quantities. 

Families Are Making Diverse Choices

Families are also open to all dining segments and channels. While they crave the value of QSR – 34 percent of families reporting higher spending at QSRs this month compared to 18 percent of childless households – they are inclined toward fast casual and full-service restaurants as well. While singles cut back, 20 percent of families had more fast-casual visits this month and 18 percent dined full-service, in stark contrast to 9 percent and 7 percent, respectively, among households without kids. 

Delivery services are another area where families are leading the charge. An impressive 64 percent of family respondents order delivery at least once a week, with 26 percent utilizing this convenience three times a week or more. This is compared to 58 percent of childless households that did NOT use delivery services in an average week, underscoring families' significant role in the segment.


Strategies for Attracting Family Business

Given a -2.1 percent YOY decline in QSR traffic (Restaurant Trends, March 2024) and a consumer base weary of price increases over the past four years, families represent a beacon of opportunity for market share expansion. So, how can restaurant operators effectively tap into this lucrative segment?



1. Bundle up. Offering bundles and family meal deals can be an effective strategy, particularly to boost off-premise sales. In a past study, RMS found more than 50 percent of households with three or more people order family meals at least every two weeks. The trend appears to be continuing. In our 2024 survey, families reported increased restaurant spending by ordering for more people, adding appetizers to their orders and adding extra for leftovers. 


2. Amp up your app. With millennials now the most significant demographic of restaurant app users—and most likely to have children — integrating technology into the dining experience can offer a competitive edge. In a past survey of traffic drivers and promotions, RMS found that family households were more likely to dine out if they could redeem a coupon or if a restaurant was running a promotion, and Millennials love to access exclusive deals available only on apps. Remember to leverage your digital platform to foster brand loyalty and repeat business, too. Families were more likely to dine at the restaurants with the best deal, even if it meant abandoning their favorites. 

3. Understand and adapt to meet families’ needs. In an ever-evolving market landscape, staying attuned to customer preferences and adjusting offerings to meet their needs is paramount. We recommend a test and learn strategy that involves continuous testing of menu items, promotions, or service models to identify what resonates most with family customers. Adopting a data-driven approach to decision-making can help refine pricing strategies that effectively meet the needs and expectations of this valuable customer segment.

By catering to families' specific needs and preferences, restaurant operators can gain a competitive advantage and increase their ever-important share in this highly competitive market.