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Dining has always been a family affair, but Millennial parents are seeking dining experiences that focus more on the kids than on themselves - and brands are catching on.
“A restaurant is a fantasy – a kind of living fantasy in which diners are the most important members of the cast.” – Warner LeRoy, former owner of the Russian Tea Room
In our 2014 study on Millennial moms, “From Me, Me, Me to Mommy,” we found that when it comes to parenting, Millennials are “all in.” In the past, parents might seek out permission to take breaks or respond to messages about taking time for themselves, but today’s parents aspire to be more present, involved and engaged than parents from the generations that came before them. Eating together is an important opportunity that brings today’s families together. When it comes to dining out, QSRs and fast casual restaurants have traditionally made dining together easy because they offer kid-focused menus and family-friendly environments (e.g., PlayPlaces). In contrast, fine-dining has typically been seen as an occasion for parents to take a night off from parenting and enjoy an adults-only meal alone.
But Millennials are challenging this truism as they seek to include their kids in these special dining experiences, often with the aim of exposing them to adventurous new foods. Fine-dining restaurants have noticed and are starting to not only allow kids, but cater to them as special guests. And on the menu they are not just offering kid menu staples, but also employing experienced, fine-dining chefs to make custom kid-friendly meals. In April, “The Kids Table” project invited children aged 7-14 years to dine at Michelin-starred restaurants. Organized by cookbook author, TV host, and culinary entrepreneur, Claus Meyer, fine-dining restaurants in NYC boasted special, just-for-kids three-course menus during the event that include three seasonal ingredients: rhubarb, lamb and turnip. “Nibble and Squeak” is a new service, or “dining club,” in New York City that plans meals at popular, trending restaurants for groups of parents and their children. Their mission is to “make it easy for new parents to treat themselves and to enjoy their local food scene at all levels.” Started in March, Nibble & Squeak is already receiving requests to bring their services to major cities all over the world.
Efforts like these aim to make dining out at upscale restaurants not just inclusive of, but welcoming of, the littlest member of the family. But it’s important to note that while this may still be offered at elite locations, it could be a sign of a trend ready to hit the mainstream.
Au Fudge, the Los Angeles-based restaurant co-founded by Jessica Biel, offers fine-dining with organic, child-friendly meals in a fun, kid-friendly designed environment. One of the owners said the idea for the restaurant came when “we saw a hole in the marketplace for fine-dining experiences that don’t exclude people who happen to have children.”
And fine-dining restaurants are paying more attention than ever to the littlest of taste-makers. (YouthBeat 2015)