Young consumers in fast food restaurants: technology, toys and family time

Julie Kellershohn (Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)
Keith Walley (Harper Adams University College, Newport, UK)
Bettina West (Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)
Frank Vriesekoop (Harper Adams University College, Newport, UK)

Young Consumers

ISSN: 1747-3616

Publication date: 16 April 2018



The purpose of the study was to further our understanding of in-restaurant family behaviors using an ethnographic study of families with children (at least one child from 2 to 12 years old) dining in fast food restaurants.


This study includes an unobtrusive, direct observational study of family fast food restaurant behaviour, including use of mobile technology, toys and indoor play area. Ordering and dining behaviours include field notes and enumeration of activity times for 300 families (450 children).


The food ordering process was rapid (<6 min), during which personal technology use was minimal, and adult/child interactions were perfunctory. Visits averaged 53 min, and only 18 min on average was spent eating. Families were observed using the fast food restaurant as a “third place” (home away from home) for many activities other than eating food. In-restaurant family behaviours included frequent use of technology (40 per cent of children/ 70 per cent of adults), use of the indoor play area (65 per cent of children/ 33 min of play) and child engagement with a toy (53 per cent of children/10 min of play).


Studying how time is spent in fast food restaurants expands the knowledge of current family eating behaviours and how young consumers behave in restaurants (i.e. with restaurant-provided activities, toys and indoor play spaces). Shifts in dining practices, from the intrusion of technology during the meal (technoference) to a decline in the use of restaurant-provided toys were noted. Dining visits now include many non-food activities, and the dining time in the restaurant was not a time for extensive family conversations or interactions, but rather a public home away from home.



Kellershohn, J., Walley, K., West, B. and Vriesekoop, F. (2018), "Young consumers in fast food restaurants: technology, toys and family time", Young Consumers, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 105-118.

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