While the restaurant industry as a whole spent 2011 in a recessionary slump, the family midscale segment has been the most negatively impacted and the next few years aren’t expected to show an upward swing. According to a recent Mintel foodservice report, 80% of family restaurant-goers who are eating out less in general are doing so because of budgetary reasons. Due to this and other challenges, family restaurant sales are expected to decline by 7% over the next four years.
“Playing the pricing game has not proved successful for family restaurants,” notes Eric Giandelone, foodservice director at Mintel. “Mintel believes that the greatest opportunity for the market to return to a path of growth is to employ a sustainable approach to value by promoting reasonable prices with value-added benefits like health and convenience.”
The challenge for restaurant operators is that historically, “healthy” menu items don’t sell well because a healthy item often communicates “no taste.” However, a change may be imminent. In fact, 34% of restaurant-goers say healthy food is an important factor in selecting a family restaurant.
Adding value through convenience is another approach that can benefit this segment. While the majority (75%) of consumers enjoy the sit-down, full-service experience, families are more likely to say that service at these restaurants is typically too slow. As a result, families are more likely to save family restaurants for weekend dining, when they have more time.
“By utilizing an 'express lunch' concept, family midscale restaurants can attract the business crowd during the week and perhaps implement a 'family express dinner' where families can still enjoy their sit-down experience, but at a pace that coincides with their busy week night schedules,” adds Giandelone.
A number of restaurant attributes are cited as important in selecting a family restaurant. Seventy percent of family restaurant patrons say value for their money is most important, followed by menu items they like, fresh food and convenient location (69%, 60% and 59% respectively).
When asked what family restaurant goers want to see more of on the menu, 44% said fruit as a side option, while 41% want different preparation methods, like grilling. These numbers correspond with the importance of healthy menu items being available.