Family Meals Feed the Soul

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

One trend that has survived the shutdown is the family meal. Either for dining in or for to go, a package deal that serves a group has become a real “thing.” Feed the need.

Family sharing a meal

The words “family meal” have taken on a whole new meaning in the past year and a half. It’s not just the pre- or post-shift meal served to staff anymore, because family meals and other bundled meals for groups are sales builders that are likely to stick around as the foodservice industry recovers.  

These meal deals—typically offer a curated package including appetizer, side, entrée, and dessert in either family packs or for per-person individual meals—proved very popular during the height of the shutdowns. In fact, according to the National Restaurant Association 2021 State of the Industry Report, 50% of fine dining operators and more than 4 out of 10 family dining and casual dining operators added family or bundled meals since the beginning of the pandemic, while 35% of fast casuals and 28% of quick locations offered them.

Furthermore, 30% of off-premise customers said they would be more likely to choose a restaurant that offers meal bundles in the months ahead. Gen Z consumers were the biggest fans, logging in at 34% of the total.

The best news, however, is that the concept works not only for takeout, but also for dine-in menus as people resume gathering in groups.

Consumers like group meal options because they take the pressure off feeding families, guests, and other groups, minimizing decision-making and often representing a discount off individually priced and a la carte orders. And operationally, they represent a source of sales that tends to be both versatile and predictable, offering cross-utilization of both regular menu prep and special items.

Here are some ideas to inspire you:

  1. Offer a traditional multi-course or family-style Sunday supper celebrating the heritage of the owner, chef, or another employee (for example, Filipino sinigang stew, jackfruit adobo, and kare-kare brisket in coconut peanut gravy, or Italian antipasto, lasagna, salad, and tiramisu).
  2. Don’t forget the beverages: pitchers or carafes of lemonade or iced tea; thermal coffee for a group; batch cocktails.
  3. Create a multi-course “chef’s whim” set menu (appetizer or salad, entrée and side dishes, dessert, and beverage) for two or more people, priced by the person.
  4. Specialize in something most customers love but don’t usually cook at home (seafood boil, fried chicken dinner, racks of ribs, a spectacular roast with all the accompaniments).
  5. Do group “picnic packs” of warm-weather foods for soccer practice, outdoor events, or a nearby beach, park, or entertainment event.
  6. Tap into holidays and other calendar events with themed offerings—not just the usual Thanksgiving or Mother’s Day, but also football season (wings by the dozen), graduation (sandwich platters and a congratulatory cake), or healthy snack packs for the office (portions of crudité and dips, housemade granola bars or trail mix, smoothie fixings).
  7. Offer discounted Family Value Packs for four to six people, featuring bundled signature menu items that are already a hit with customers.
  8. If possible, create different price tiers, sizes/portions, and add-ons so that guests can customize family meals.
  9. Include gluten free, plant-based, and kids’ meal choices as appropriate.
  10. Consider including partially prepared items like a take-and-bake pie or marinated, ready-to-grill meats.
  11. Go retro with a giant, made-to-order hero sandwich plus side-dish salads and cookies for a group of friends.
  12. Present or package shareable items like Masala-style mussels, empanadas with dips, shakshuka, or a charcuterie assortment in a bucket, bowl, or other vessel that can be brought to the table so everyone can help themselves.
  13. Experiment with classic group-meal items like fondue, all-you-can-eat fish fry, or DIY tacos or bulgogi Korean barbecue lettuce wraps.
  14. Include planned leftovers or several days’ worth of meals in group or family meal bundles, for value and customer convenience.

The information provided is based on a general industry overview, and is not specific to your business operation. Each business is unique and decisions related to your business should be made after consultation with appropriate experts.