Washington Restaurant Market Watch: Restaurants court tech-savvy kids

Washington Restaurant Market Watch: Restaurants court tech-savvy kids https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/chuckecheese1-940x198.jpg

By Paul Schlienz

Ever wonder why so many restaurants feature cute characters and other features designed to appeal to children?

It’s no accident.

When families eat out, children often cast the deciding vote on which eatery is ultimately patronized. Thus, it’s good business for restaurants to target children.

The kids of today, however, are significantly different from those of even 20 years ago. The post-Millennial Generation Z is the most tech savvy age cohort ever. Not surprisingly, restaurants are working overtime to create creative new ways of attracting this age group , and it is through means like cell phones that this important demographic is being courted.

According to a survey by Common Sense Media, there was a five-fold increase in ownership of tablets, from eight percent, in 2011, to 40 percent in 2013. Most astoundingly, 75 percent of all children have access at home to some type of smart mobile device, including tablets and phones.

A good example of a restaurant chain that is going straight for the hearts and minds of the tech loving young demographic is Boston Restaurant & Sports Bar. In August, the chain added a mobile app in the form of a 3-D augmented reality game designed to appeal to kids.

“Our mobile app games have worked tremendously well in enticing our younger guests,” Brad Bevill, Boston’s vice president of marketing, told FSR. “Mobile phones and apps allow our brand to take several steps ahead of competitors; we are creating a cool factor in the minds of children. In addition, this keeps our menus and brand inside our guests’ homes, which drives higher frequency.”

It’s hard to imagine a child that wouldn’t like Boston’s kid-friendly app that allows them to create characters to accompany Boston the Bulldog, the chain’s mascot. Kids can train their characters, building their skills and improving their performance. And if that doesn’t appeal, kids can always use the app to play games like basketball, hockey and soccer.

Boston Restaurant & Sports Bar is far from the only restaurant that’s finding new and innovative of ways of connecting with kids through the technology they love.

In October, Texas Roadhouse married its kids’ menus with a QR code that features a small graphic of Andy Armadillo, the chain’s mascot. When kids scan the code with a smart device, they are taken to an iTunes page where they can download Andy’s Art Kit app. Once they download this app, children are able to make their own layouts using color schemes and drag-and-drop icons and color schemes. When their creations are complete, they can share them, online.

Restaurant consultant Michael Whiteman urges restaurant operators to become tech savvy themselves so they can take advantage of such innovative approaches and not get left behind.

“Lots of operators, especially smaller ones, have no idea how rapidly the tech world has already changed,” Whiteman, president of consulting firm Baum + Whiteman, told QSR. “They should start investigating now so they’re not irrevocably behind the curve.”

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