The U.S. restaurant industry, which is still struggling to recapture visits lost during the recession, may be able to fill the visit gap by enticing families with kids back in, according to The NPD Group, a leading global information company.  Families with kids, which represent 32 percent of U.S. households and $83.7 billion of total restaurant sales, made 1 billion fewer visits to U.S. restaurants over the past six years, finds a NPD foodservice market research report.

The cost of taking a family out to eat in tough economic times is a barrier for many families, but not the only barrier.  Beyond the cost, there are other key barriers limiting families from dining out: value for the money; environment; convenience; and, menu offerings, according to NPD’s Parties with Kids: Motivating More Visits report.  Most important to parents is the environment.  Eighty-four percent of parents surveyed for the NPD report state they are much more or somewhat more likely to visit a restaurant if it offers a kid-friendly environment

NPD finds that the age of the child plays a role in barriers to visiting. Families with older kids place more importance on value since these kids’ appetites are changing – eating more, ordering outside the kids menu – making it more expensive to dine out.  Families with younger kids care more about the restaurant environment and menu offerings because younger diners need to be entertained and parents are more involved with what their kids eat.

“Restaurants are leaving money on the table by not capturing more families with kids visits,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “The good news is that there are solid tactics that operators can employ, with the help of manufacturers, in attracting families back to the dining table: emphasizing the value components of menus; creating a kid-friendly environment; offering fast and attentive service; and, addressing food preferences kids have at different ages.

About The NPD Group, Inc.:

The NPD Group provides global information and advisory services to drive better business decisions.  By combining unique data assets with unmatched industry expertise, we help our clients track their markets, understand consumers and drive profitable growth. Sectors covered include automotive, beauty, consumer electronics, entertainment, fashion, food / foodservice, home, luxury, mobile, office supplies, sports, technology, toys and video games. For more information, visit and Follow us on Twitter: @npdgroup.

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