By Mark Jachecki
Executive Chef Consultant
The NPD Group
As Millennials enter parenthood, they are bringing their appetites and food savvy with them. Not surprisingly, they are also influencing the food habits of their little ones. Millennial parties with kids are becoming an increasingly important family demo in commercial foodservice in Canada. They add up to 131 million visits annually, growing on average by 12 per cent since 2014. They’re also driving $901 million in sales, growing on average by 16 per cent. This is in stark contrast to the flat traffic and dollar growth observed in total commercial foodservice. During the same time period, Gen X has been starting to phase out of parenthood. While they drive more traffic and dollars (164 million visits and $1.3 billion respectively), traffic has softened to a -1 per cent CAGR since 2014.
Not surprisingly, parties with kids heavily over-index when it comes to the motivation for visit of “kids like it there,” speaking to the quantifiable role kids play in deciding where a family will eat. That said, while Millennial parents also factor in their kids’ preferences, they are less motivated than other generations to do so – compared to total parties with kids, Millennial parents under-index on “kids like it there.” Put simply, Millennial parents tend to consider other factors when making their decision.
For example, compared to Gen X parents, Millennial parents are more likely to:
- Visit operators they regularly go to
- Visit operators that are budget friendly
- Seek out specific menu items
- Seek out convenient meal solutions given their lack of time and busy lifestyles
When it comes to the Millennial cohort, in-home meal times tend to be much less structured compared to other generations. Furthermore, Millennials spend close to half the time preparing meals that Gen X spends. Our data shows Millennials are also more likely to purchase home-meal replacements from retail or subscribe to a meal-kit delivery service. When it comes to out-of-home meals, Millennial parents are also more likely to seek out foodservice locations that offer a drive-thru / take-out / delivery option.
So how do brands win with these Millennial parents and their kids? When it comes to winning with this new era of parties with kids, there are several factors to take into consideration:
Health: Millennial parents are conscious of what is going into their food, and they share that same concern when it comes to what their kids are eating. This is evidenced by the change in what kids are eating and drinking at restaurants. Over time, servings of carbonated soft drinks, milk, juice, and french fries have trended down, while breakfast sandwiches, bottled water, tap water, and home fries/hash browns have become top growing items.
Convenience: All parents seek convenience, and this includes Millennial parents. More often than not, they are looking for quick and hassle-free meals they can provide to their kids in an effort to preserve their most precious resource: time. Operators need to think about how to make the purchase process as convenient and frictionless as possible, which presents an opportunity for quick-serve restaurant concepts. Millennials already skew toward QSR, and Millennial parents are no different.
Experience: Kids have an influence on where families dine out, and as a result, operators not only need to provide menu items that kids will love, but they must also consider how their packaging and in-restaurant environment will drive fun and excitement for this consumer. Concepts like Dave & Busters and Cineplex’s Playdium are good examples of this. Kids today on average also have a more diverse palate, so consider how flavorful or ethnic offerings may be differentiate you from competitors and add to the experience you offer.