Today, consumers are changing their priorities. Recent research by Yankelovich Partners, a highly recognized marketing research firm, found that consumers are moving from finding fulfillment in things to finding fulfillment in experiences. According to Yankelovich's Monitor Survey, 63% of respondents agreed with the statement: "Even though there are many things I would like to own, I prefer spending my money on experiences that will enrich my life." Enriching experiences can include travel, education, and socializing with family and friends.
In the same survey, 71% of respondents agreed with the statement: "Food is an important source of pleasure in my life." That was a 5-percentage increase over the previous survey.
Research by Sloan Trends & Solutions has found that spending time with family and friends now tops Americans' list of leisure-time priorities. Elizabeth Sloan, CEO, says that restaurants are playing an important role in meeting that socialization goal. Sloan's research shows that the top reason consumers visited a casual-dining restaurant was to spend time with friends (a 5-percentage increase over the previous year), or to be with family (up by 8%). Enjoying time with family or friends also topped the reason for visiting a family-style eatery (up by 11%).
Socialization and food are an integral part of society. The ritual of eating is one of the most primal of shared activities. It has been so since caveman families and clans first gathered around the fire to enjoy the rewards of a successful hunt. We eat together when we celebrate, when we grieve, when a loved one is preparing to leave, when a loved one returns, when we need to work out problems or make business deals or just to share our lives. Sidney Mintz, professor of anthropology at Johns Hopkins University, says, "Interaction over food is the single most important feature of socialization. The food becomes the carriage that conveys feelings back and forth."
In today's time pressured society, where there is less time to cook and people have limited cooking skills, the restaurant is fast becoming the replacement for the previous tradition dinner at home where the entire family gathered.
With socialization at restaurants becoming an increasingly important priority in the lives of Americans and many other Westerners, the concept of destination-entertainment facilities offering only a snack bar has become totally out of sync with the needs of contemporary consumers. To be successful, location-based entertainment (LBE) facilities need to combine destination dining with the family/friends and fun formula. This not only makes LBEs highly relevant to consumers, but also drives frequency. The average American eats out 200 times a year. Destination dining drives significantly higher repeat business than entertainment alone. Combining the 3 F's - family/friends, food and fun, results in sales two to three times per square foot greater than entertainment alone. It's the only way to win in today's competitive marketplace where consumers have so many competing demands and options for what to do what their disposable leisure time.