Building community through food: A guide to family-style restaurant dining

Family dining is on the rise in the restaurant industry, catering to changing preferences while enhancing customer satisfaction and opening up new revenue streams

TableCheck

TableCheck

Oct 26, 2023 - 4 min read

Building community through food:  A guide to family-style restaurant dining

In certain segments of the restaurant industry, a noteworthy trend is emerging: family-style dining. In a world where people crave genuine social interactions and the pleasure of sharing a meal with their loved ones, family-style dining emerges as the perfect fit, especially with the resurgence of on-site dining. Some restaurants embrace the concept to align with evolving culinary preferences and shifting consumer habits.

But family-style dining is more than just food; it's a practical and socially enriching approach that could breathe new life into establishments. It's an opportunity to enhance customer satisfaction and unlock a fresh revenue stream.

In this article, we’ll closely examine the essentials of family-style dining, explore its myriad benefits, and assess its potential.  

What is family-style dining?

Family-style dining bridges the gap between traditional sit-down service with a relaxed atmosphere and a more formal setting than a buffet dining service. Large servings of food are placed on the table and diners serve themselves individually and share the food. Imagine a table adorned with generously portioned dishes, inviting guests to share meals and foster an atmosphere of togetherness.

It’s all about creating communal dining experiences, echoing the simple pleasure of gathering around the family dinner table and enjoying home-cooked meals — a sentiment that resonates profoundly in today's fast-paced world and aligns with consumers’ desire for great food and memorable social interactions.

The appeal of family-style communal dining and family restaurants

Family-style dining extends beyond just serving delicious food. They offer a sense of belonging and togetherness, emphasizing the significance of communal dining in our society. That's why establishments that provide a welcoming environment like family restaurants can cater to people of all ages. They allow families and friends to celebrate milestones, and special occasions and share great food! Here are some key characteristics that define family-style dining:

  • Facilitates genuine social connection

In a world dominated by screens and digital interactions, family-style dining offers a much-needed opportunity for genuine social connections. Diners can engage in meaningful conversations, share their preferences, and bond over the joy of food.

  • Creates memorable guest experiences

Recreating the warm and cozy ambiance of home-cooked meals shared with loved ones goes beyond mere gastronomy; it's an invitation to create memories and evoke nostalgia, transporting diners back to cherished family gatherings and the comforting embrace of familiar cuisine.

  • Caters to diverse tastes 

Catering to groups and families, family-style restaurants often provide reasonable prices and swift service, featuring menus that cater to a broad range of tastes, from the young to the elderly.

Family-style dining

Benefits of family-style dining for restaurant owners

1. Increased revenue potential

Larger group sizes translate to higher per-table revenue. Moreover, as guests are encouraged to sample a variety of dishes, this often results in larger bills. This leads to increased table turnover and enhanced overall profitability for the restaurant. This makes the restaurant a viable option for families and large groups whenever they want to celebrate special occasions or just have normal weekend family get-togethers.

2. Appeals to a wider audience; more marketing opportunities

Apart from families, family-style restaurants can attract larger groups seeking a festive experience. The communal atmosphere is perfect for holiday gatherings and celebrations including corporate or club events. This makes the restaurant an appealing choice for a wider group of people, beyond traditional family dining.

The communal and welcoming appeal of a family-style setup offers a lot of marketing opportunities. It can be a powerful tool to highlight a restaurant’s versatility and unique selling points. When strategically promoted as a unique holiday offer, it has the potential to create a buzz on social media platforms and drive word-of-mouth recommendations.  

3. Simplified menu and efficient servicing

Family-style dining often involves a streamlined menu with standardized portions, simplifying kitchen operations and reducing wait times. This helps optimize food preparation which improves efficiency and provides more time for staff to focus on delivering great customer service.

4. Pre-booking for events and celebrations 

Group reservations are often booked in advance, providing a stable stream of business even during lean periods and allowing for advanced preparations during peak times. This helps the restaurant plan ahead for staffing and inventory much more efficiently thereby elevating the overall dining experience in general while enhancing their brand reputation.

5. Flexibility in pricing and cost-efficiency

Restaurants can offer fixed-price menus and seasonal promotions (special deals for Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc.) to boost sales, effectively communicating exciting offers and anticipated costs. Meanwhile, buying supplies and ingredients in bulk as a result of standardized menu preparations can lead to cost-effective operations.

Family-style dining

Family-style dining tips: Creative ideas and inspiration

For establishments looking to adopt the family-style dining concept, successful integration requires a thoughtful combination of physical layout, ambiance, and service style. Here are the steps to consider when creating and incorporating family-style dining in a restaurant:

1. Create a shareable menu

A carefully curated menu designed for shared enjoyment is a key component. This includes a delectable selection of appetizers, main courses, and desserts, all with ample servings and options to accommodate varying group sizes and dietary preferences, factoring in children and seniors. For instance, an Italian restaurant offering family-style dining options should consider incorporating antipasto boards into generous servings of pizza and pasta, creating an atmosphere that fosters connectivity.

2. Design a comfortable place to dine

The restaurant's physical layout should be designed to provide ample seating and spacious tables to encourage comfortable group dining. Diners should have enough space to have a degree of privacy while staff should be able to move about and serve without any physical obstruction. Child-friendly amenities and flexible seating arrangements for different group sizes are also advantageous.  

Additionally, restaurants should create an appealing ambiance. This could include incorporating family-friendly decor, providing comfortable seating, choosing warm color palettes, and, when seasonally appropriate, introducing themed decorations to improve the overall dining experience. Adding elements like wood provides comfort and a warm aesthetic to the restaurant and good lighting creates a great ambiance. Ensure that the acoustics are balanced by using materials that will reduce restaurant noise so that families or even business clients have pleasant conversations.

3. Invest in serving-ware

Platters, bowls, and utensils designed for sharing can significantly elevate the presentation of dishes and foster a sense of togetherness among diners. Dishes that come in beautifully designed serving ware create an authentic visual and gastronomic feast sparking conversations as well as Instagram-worthy moments for everyone.

4. Provide exceptional staff training

Staff must receive specialized training in order to serve larger groups. It plays an important role in providing attentive and accommodating service, with a focus on patience and a welcoming demeanor to create a warm and inviting environment.

Good communication skills are key to delivering great customer service. From greeting customers right to being attentive to their needs and having digital skills, these are some of the ways the front of staff can elevate the guest experience for larger groups.

5. Boost digital engagement

Digital customer experience, according to a McKinsey report, will be critical to retaining current customers and capturing next-generation loyalty. Maintaining an active social media presence and leveraging digital tools like TableCheck for reservations, table management (TMS) and marketing automation (TableCheck EDM) can optimize workflow and increase productivity and efficiency.

6. Create an optimized take-out and delivery service

Having an efficient take-out and delivery service ensures that all diners can enjoy the restaurant's offerings, whether dining in or ordering out. It not only communicates a dedication to quality and service, but it also broadens a restaurant's customer base. 

A successful family-style environment necessitates meticulous planning and execution. With innovative solutions and a commitment to excellence, restaurants can offer memorable experiences that keep diners coming back for more. 

TableCheck helps restaurants maximize online reservations, optimize outlet operations, and elevate guest hospitality and loyalty through features like TableCheck EDM, Customer Survey, and TableCheck Insight. TableCheck is used by more than 9000+ hospitality operators worldwide to offer their guests award-winning experiences.

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