One might think eating out would be more appealing to singles than families with young children, since cooking at home can save a family money. However, millennials with kids are turning that logic upside down as they are increasingly turning to restaurants to feed their families.
Millennials with children bought food at restaurants 5% more frequently in 2018 compared to the year before, and dinner was the meal they were most likely to buy prepared, according to research by The NPD Group. The retail data analytics company tracks how often consumers frequent restaurants and other food service venues. The dining habits of millennial parents are in stark contrast to those of other groups since the foodservice industry as a whole experienced flat traffic growth in 2018, The NPD Group said.
Previous studies have shown that millennials are more likely to dine out than other generations. For example, a 2017 study by the United States Department of Agriculture compared food purchase decisions of millennials with those of other groups and found that millennials eat out in restaurants or bars 30% more often than other generations.
This trend doesn’t appear to be changing as millennials enter new life phases such as marriage and parenthood, as millennials with kids made 7.3 billion visits to quick-service restaurants, the type of establishment most frequented last year by millennial families. That category includes fast casual restaurants, like Chipotle or Panera Bread, that don’t provide full table service and typically offer a higher quality food and cost more than fast food restaurants, according to the NPD Group.
One reason fast casual restaurants might be popular with millennial parents is because many aren’t looking for a place for their families to sit down and eat. In fact, 46% of millennial families eat the meals they buy from foodservice outlets at home, compared to 30% who eat inside restaurants. The rest of those surveyed eat at other locations, such as their car or at work. The NPD Group also found that some millennial parents will buy portions of their meal from foodservice outlets and cook other parts at home.
The trend of millennials eating out is likely to continue, experts say. “Not only are they a large generational group but their attitudes about food and eating, which they’ve taken through life stages, have a tremendous influence on the foodservice industry,” said NPD Group food industry advisor David Portalatin in a press release.
While some might argue that eating out frequently can be expensive, it does not have to hurt your family’s bottom line as long as you budget for it. If you do eat out frequently, you can also take advantage of a credit card that offers cash back for money spent at dining establishments. However, make sure that you pay the entire balance on the credit card each month so you’re not offsetting any rewards savings by paying interest.