According to recent independent research**, commissioned by Aviko, the main reason families dine out is not due to convenience or time pressures, but to celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday or an anniversary, with 83% of respondents citing this as their key reason. For 50% of families, however, going out for dinner is a welcome reprieve from preparing a meal at home.
When it comes to choosing where to eat, the most popular venue for 29% of families is the traditional British pub, which as a sector has done extremely well to align itself with this market over recent years, offering family-friendly environments, value for money meal deals and offers. The reassurance and familiarity that branded restaurants offer also act as a draw for families, with 22% choosing a chain restaurant such as Nando's, GBK or Jamie's Italian, while only 14% would opt for a local independent restaurant.
Despite talk of confidence returning to the eating out sector, families remain very price sensitive and, as such, 67% of respondents cite this as a key motivator in choosing where to eat. Also high on the agenda is the variety of food on offer with 65% of consumers stating that the menu options available influence where they dine out. Families are more than willing to travel further afield in order to obtain these two factors with location - i.e. nearest - coming third in respondents' lists of priorities.
Commenting on the findings, Mohammed Essa, General Manager UK and Ireland, Aviko, says: "The research reveals a lot of interesting details about why and where families choose to eat out. Despite the recession easing, old habits die hard and families that have been on the lookout for value for money are still choosing price over other factors such as menu choices and location.
"This doesn't mean, however, that families want cheap food; they are still demanding a quality offering and, therefore, it is important that outlets looking to compete for the family pound meet these to demands.
"The research also shows that families are willing to travel if value for money and choice are not offered within their vicinity. This represents a great opportunity for these outlets to up their game and improve their offering."
When it comes to children's menus, chips are the side of choice, featuring in all three of the top dishes parents are most likely to order for their youngsters - chicken nuggets and chips (58%), burger and chips (56%) and fish and chips (49%).
Mohammed continues: "Fries remain the hero of children's menus so it's important to make the most of this demand. There's a real opportunity for operators to maximise profits by offering fries with an irresistible point of difference that helps them stand out from the crowd."
Aviko offers a range of potato options which help caterers appeal to the family market, including its Premium Fries range. This includes Supercrunch with a crispy, crunchy texture; Superlong, for greater plate fill; Sweet Potato Fries, which offer an alternative to the traditional chip; and Wedges in a range of styles including spicy and garlic and herb.
Our Premium Fries have the added advantage of being gluten-free, providing an ideal solution for the 28% of people that want to see more gluten-free options for young people^, as well as the increasing number of children being diagnosed with coeliac disease (which has almost tripled in the UK over the last 20 years^^).
We've created a handy infographic highlighting the key findings of the recent research, as well as a range of activity sheets - available for operators to download free - to keep children entertained while eating out.
* NPD Group ** Aviko/Toluna June 2015 ^Aviko/Toluna February 2015 ^^Coeliac UK