Family-Style Restaurants: Thinking Beyond Families

In 2008, Denny’s pioneered an aggressive push into the late-night category with their “Rockstar” menu. Presumably, their goal was to expand their reach in terms of both occasions and demographics – to build sales during non-peak meal times and boost traffic among younger consumers.

It’s a solid strategy supported by data from our recent Future of FSR: Family-Style Restaurant Consumer Trend Report, which confirmed that parents and family occasions are still central to family-style restaurant visits, but consumers across the demographic spectrum also dine at these restaurants for a variety of occasions.

Nearly half of parents polled (49 percent) visit family-style restaurants at least once a week, making them easily the heaviest users. Though considerably fewer consumers without children (36 percent) dine at these locations with the same frequency, their visit rate is also relatively high. In fact, important demographic groups like Millennials and Hispanics over-index for weekly family-style patronage.

Source: Technomic’s Future of FSR: Family-Style Restaurant Consumer Trend Report

A similar theme appears when consumers are asked about the factors that drive them to visit family-style restaurants. More than two-thirds of consumers polled (68 percent) say there is a high probability they would visit these locations for meals with family. However, nearly as many consumers (58 percent) would be just as likely to visit with friends.

Additionally, some of the occasions for which consumers say they are likely to visit family-style restaurants speak to key dining needstates that are integral to restaurant occasions regardless of dining party. Consumers say that family-style restaurants are a top consideration for occasions in which they seek affordable sit-down meals, meals to satisfy their cravings and comfort foods.

Base: 1,500 consumers aged 18+
Respondents indicated their opinion on a scale of 1–6 where 1 = not likely at all and 6 = extremely likely
Source: Technomic’s Future of FSR: Family-Style Restaurant Consumer Trend Report

The data shows that family-style restaurants have also been successful in the late-night arena, particularly among Millennials. About a third of all consumers polled say they are very likely to visit family-style concepts for food after a night out (35 percent) or for a late-night meal (32 percent). Additionally, more than a quarter of consumers (26 percent) say they would visit for a late-night snack. Each occasion is driven by younger consumers.

Base: 1,500 consumers aged 18+
Respondents indicated their opinion on a scale of 1–6 where 1 = not likely at all and 6 = extremely likely
Source: Technomic’s Future of FSR: Family-Style Restaurant Consumer Trend Report

Parents and family occasions are still the prime audience for family-style concepts, but there is also room for more family-style operators to expand their marketing towards other consumers and occasions. The data suggests that touting the appealing mix of affordable prices and sit-down service and focusing on the types of food offered—including the craveable comfort foods they are known for —is a winning combination for these operators to reach a broad base of consumers.

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Kelly Weikel

As Director of Consumer Insights, Kelly specializes in using her background in psychology to understand the “why” behind consumer decisions. Her focus is on uncovering the underlying consumer needstates and motivations that shape foodservice behaviors and providing insights on consumer attitudes and usage across foodservice products, amenities and brands. Since joining the firm in 2007, Kelly has played a key role in developing Technomic’s Consumer Trend Reports and Access platform and manages the series of more than 20 annual studies that keep U.S. and Canadian foodservice professionals up to date on evolving trends in food and beverage categories, restaurant sectors, dining occasions, consumer segments and more.

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