Moms drive restaurant choices

September 09, 2011

Eateries that add healthy foods and deals to drive visits should prompt supermarkets to step up their prepared foods offers.

Family needs shape relationships between America’s households and restaurants, yet recent studies point to moms as the primary decision makers for eating out and ordering in. What drives their choices in eateries? Kid-friendliness, healthy choices, ethnic flavors, deals and convenience, indicate findings of several different research projects.  

Since foodservice marketers in the quick-serve and casual segments are addressing these needs more directly, supermarkets also need to with their prepared foods and sit-down dining , says F3. Because many grocers no longer price ready-to-eat foods sharper than restaurants, these other traits become more important to generating store trips. How important is this? Moms buy from fast-food restaurants more often than they buy beauty and personal care products, household cleaning and laundry products, and baby or child care products; they buy from casual dining restaurants more often than they buy over-the-counter remedies and prescription medications, according to a Google/OTX Research/Sterling Brands survey released last year.

Meanwhile, “the mom of today is represented by more diversity than ever, and is also faced with a wider variety of foodservice choices than ever before. Despite this, healthy choices, value and restaurants that provide a comfortable environment for their family are all very important across every demographic,” said Sara Monnette, Technomic director of consumer research, upon this summer’s issue of its study done with Creative Consumer Concepts (C3), Today’s Mom: Understanding the Foodservice Attitudes and Behaviors of Major Ethnic Groups.

“Today’s family has moved past a one-size-fits-all demographic,” added Jenny Ferguson, C3 director of consumer insights. “Family dynamics are different, and the strategic role that moms play in their families continues to grow. By understanding the landscape and changing target audience, foodservice suppliers and operators can be positioned for future success and growth.”

Regardless of ethnicity, moms are the likeliest members of their families to decide on fast-food restaurant patronage, the study shows:  33% of Asian moms, 25% of Hispanic moms, 32% of African-American moms, and 25% of Caucasian moms say they decide alone.  However, larger percentages say they decide together:  61% Asian, 69% Hispanic, 63% African-American and 71% Caucasian. For the rest, a child or a spouse decides.

For its part, the Google/OTX/Sterling study shows moms are proactive online with regard to restaurants:
•    84% use the Internet to seek restaurant coupons or special deals
•    43% look at menus and operating hours
•    40% seek directions
•    30% actually order takeout or delivery food
•    25% research nutritional information or buy gift cards

Moms also know that healthy choices are easier to find at restaurants, including fast-feeders. One-quarter of moms (25%) said it was easy to eat fruit and 17% said the same of vegetables, in a survey conducted last year by OnResearch for the Produce for Better Health Foundation. In 2008, by comparison, the figures were just 19% for fruit and 8% for vegetables. With this greater access, more than one-third of moms said it’s fairly easy to persuade family members to eat fruits and vegetables in restaurants.