More so than any previous generation, today's parents look to include their children when going out for a nice meal. Part of it comes from the increasingly busy schedule so many seem to have and families wanting to take advantage of whatever time together they have, and some of it stems from a desire to create a sense of culture in their children. The argument many parents make is that a child cannot learn to properly behave when out to dinner when there is a bevy of six foot tall animatronic creatures singing "Happy Birthday."
The challenge for parents looking to create this experience is to find restaurants that offer casual fine dining in an affordable atmosphere. If the dinners happen too rarely, they take on a "special occasion only" feeling and that works against the purpose of establishing proper behavior when out to eat. On the other hand, many restaurants that families can afford to dine out at on a regular basis are either family style buffet places or what is called "fast casual" - restaurants where meals are ordered at a corner before being brought to your table.
There are several chain restaurants that do a decent job of filling the need to a certain extent, but the popular choice parents are making across the country is locally owned and operated restaurants that typically have an ethnic or ethnic fusion theme. There are several reasons why this is so. As a privately run restaurant, there is greater transparency in ingredients and sources, so families can feel good about the quality of the food they are eating. Menu items can be more easily amended to take into account finicky eaters. Finally, the parents appreciate this choice because it allows them to find menu items they normally would not be able to find at a more typically themed family restaurant.
Just as importantly, these restaurants are not beholden to a corporate pricing structure or responsible for diverting some of their income to franchise fees, which allows them to price their food more aggressively. By presenting a less expensive option for a more diverse menu, it allows families to come back on a regular basis and not feel like there are only a few items on the menu they can afford to order.
These restaurants also serve as a community anchor, and over time, customers and chefs become friends and neighbors. By making these casual fine dining locally owned restaurants part of a regular routine for a family, it helps to strengthen the bonds in a small town and helps children learn more about where they live and who lives there with them.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who has been covering the food and beverage industry for more than 20 years. http://www.osorioslatinfusion.com