CHICAGO — The family midscale segment of the restaurant industry has been the most negatively impacted by the recession, and things are not expected to pick up during the next few years, according to Mintel.

“Playing the pricing game has not proved successful for family restaurants,” said Eric Giandelone, food service director at Mintel. “Mintel believes that the greatest opportunity for the market to return to a path of growth is to employ a sustainable approach to value by promoting reasonable prices with value-added benefits like health and convenience.”

According to a recent Mintel report, 80% of family restaurant-goers who are eating out less in general are doing so due to budget reasons. Overall, family restaurant sales are expected to decline by 7% during the next four years. The challenge for restaurant operators has been that healthy menu items typically haven’t sold well due to consumer concerns about taste, but that may be changing as 34% of restaurant-goers said healthy food is an important factor in choosing a family restaurant.

Convenience is another way restaurant operators may attract consumers. While 75% of consumers said they enjoy full-service experiences, families are more likely to say service at these restaurants is too slow and save these dining experiences for the weekend when there is more time.

“By utilizing an ‘express lunch’ concept, family midscale restaurants can attract the business crowd during the week and perhaps implement a ‘family express dinner’ where families can still enjoy their sit-down experience, but at a pace that coincides with their busy week night schedules,” Mr. Giandelone said.

Overall, 70% of family restaurant patrons said value is important in selecting a restaurant.