kids' meals

Four marketing strategies to help you increase family dining occasions

By Jasmine Kafka

How can restaurants that cater to families gain a competitive edge in today’s fierce market? The NPD Group’s latest study examined a number of unique restaurant visits as opposed to the traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner segments. NDP’s CREST report found 18 unique visit situations, of which family visits accounted for 20 per cent of total industry traffic (Source: Nation’s Restaurant News/The NPD Group/CREST, 2015). This is valuable insight for marketers who are looking for ways to increase family dining events. Restaurants should explore several different meal occasions to keep their brand top of mind with families and prompt more visits. The following strategies can help restaurants increase family traffic by offering just one more reason to choose them for their next meal outing, and keep them coming back!

Limited time offers (LTOs)

Restaurants are observing interesting behavior trends in restaurant LTOs as discovered by the Global Market Research Firm, Mintel (Source: Mintel predicts four consumer trends for 2016, NRN 2015). The key is to offer LTOs regularly so that restaurants can sustain the increase in visitation. The Tamo Bistro & Bar in Boston recently launched a Neighbourhood Night offering a value meal on Monday and Tuesday. This LTO increased business by 30 per cent on those evenings and, in turn, became an on-going promotion event (Source: Catering to specific customer needs, NRN 2015). For bonus points, partner a LTO with a local food business as consumers tend to favor smaller authentic companies as opposed to the larger suppliers. White Spot is a good example as they recently launched a LTO menu highlighting ice cream from Island Farms, a local dairy producer.

Birthday parties

Restaurants can increase family visits (and take pressure off parents) by hosting these annual events. California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) is popular among families for offering an affordable and all-inclusive birthday experience. Kids transform into little chefs by making their own pizza, enjoy a restaurant tour, and each child is given a certificate for a free kids’ meal for their next visit. CPK also offers an online portal for parents to book and arrange all the party details. Should hosting birthday parties not be your forte, don’t forget to think about ways to celebrate little guests’ birthdays when they are dining with their family. Own a birthday jingle, offer a free dessert/kids’ meal or give out balloons to the special birthday girl or boy.

After sporting events

Another great family draw is accommodating larger groups after local sporting events. Families need places to eat after spending long hours on the soccer field or hockey rink. Boston Pizza’s Team Headquarters program captures this segment well by welcoming larger group sizes and even offering fundraising opportunities to local sports teams. There’s nothing more effective for regularly engaging with your community.

Kids’ nights/special events

Hosting special theme nights or events for families can also increase family traffic. Millennial parents highly value life experiences, so consider throwing a dress-up party with a feature menu item and fun activities. Bringing in your mascot, or even partnering with a local balloonist or magician will help to create buzz and enhance the event. Connecting with a local charity for a fundraiser is another great event strategy that contributes to your community in addition to increasing family traffic. For example, Brown’s Social House in Victoria, B.C. asked guests to bring in new children’s pajamas in exchange for a discounted meal. The clothing was then donated to a local charity. Holidays also offer restaurants an abundance of opportunities for special events, like IHOP, which gives free “scary face” pancakes to children 12 and under on Halloween morning. “When you host an event, you are giving people a reason to come to your restaurant instead of just waiting for them to walk through your doors,” notes Debra Vilchis, chief operating officer of Fishman PR and Marketing (Source: The Main Event, QSR Online 2013). No matter which of these marketing initiatives a restaurant chooses to execute, it’s important that they take the time to thoroughly plan the event, train their staff and take steps to generate buzz and enhance awareness. By taking an innovative approach to marketing and focusing outside of the traditional dining dayparts, you can meet new customers, build loyalty with existing ones and increase your overall family dining occasions. See also:


About the author

Jasmine Kafka is Manager of Marketing Communications and Account Services at Kidzsmart, a kids and family marketing firm based in Vancouver, B.C. Their focus is on increasing family market ROI for their clients by developing revenue-driving and loyalty-inducing kids and family experiences. Through the use of children’s illustrations, storytelling, character development and fun participation games, Kidzsmart develops brand relationships that last.