Share The Table

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Expert Dinner Advice

Share the Table™: The Barilla Family Dinner Project™ Dr. William Doherty
Our "Come Back to the Table" survey showed three out of four families do not eat dinner at the same time.



The dinner table has long been a central meeting place for family and friends to connect. It provides an opportunity to strengthen bonds among family, friends and communities. As an iconic Italian food brand, Barilla has been at the heart of many of these joyful, convivial experiences. Since its founding in 1877, the company has forged a strong commitment to supporting the sharing and caring of family dinners. This commitment to nurturing connections around the dinner table inspired the need to better understand Americans' beliefs about dinnertime and their desires to improve the experience. Following is a snapshot of key findings from Barilla's new, original research study, "Share the Table: The State of Dinnertime in America." Eat Together, Live Better There is a strong connection between sharing meals and positive life experiences.
  • Americans who eat dinner together more frequently (at least five times a week) are more likely than Americans who eat together less frequently (less than 5 times per week) to be satisfied with every aspect of their lives, including:
    • Their relationship with their spouse or partner
    • Their relationship with their children
    • Their overall well-being
  • Americans have significantly higher levels of well-being if they:
    • Have a higher quantity of shared meals (i.e., more meals with others, with their core family, with their children, with significant others, at the table)
    • Have better quality of meals (i.e., fewer distractions)
    • Place higher priority on sharing meals
    • Are more satisfied with the overall experience of meals in their lives
The Family Connection Deficit Americans show a tremendous appreciation for their social connections with family and friends, yet many of them claim they are not getting enough vital family connections.
  • Six out of 10 Americans said they do not have as many opportunities to connect with their family (59%) and friends (64%) as much as they would like.
  • One in four Americans agree that sometimes it feels like their family is a group of disconnected individuals living under one roof (23%).
Mealtime Connection Though Americans are sitting down to eat dinner at the table with others an average of four nights a week, 83 percent reported that people spend less time sitting down to the table to eat together now than they did when they were growing up. Adults understand that sharing meals together can foster the family connections they crave.
  • Americans (93%) ranked sharing meals as the most important above all other activities (including family vacations, playing together and attending religious services) in helping them connect with their family on a regular basis.
  • Ninety-two percent of Americans agree that they feel more connected to what is going on in their family's life when they share a meal together.
  • Ninety-eight percent of parents rank mealtime as the most important opportunity to connect with their children.
Benefits of Sharing Meals Americans believe that sharing meals offers a rich array of benefits.
  • Ninety-six percent of parents with children under 18 in the household agree that dinnertime gives them an important opportunity to make face-to-face contact with their children and 92 percent of Americans agree dinner is one of the few moments in the day where people can slow down and focus on one another.
  • Americans ranked "connecting with the people who matter most to you" as the most important benefit of sitting down to the table for a meal, with 96 percent of Americans agreeing to this statement.
  • Americans believe that regular family mealtimes have benefits for children that are less immediately obvious, such as higher performance in school (82% agree) and they are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol (80% agree).
Why Don't We Eat Together More Often? Adults cite numerous obstacles that get in the way of families and friends eating together at home as often as they would like.
  • Adults' work schedules (73%)
  • Lack of time (66%)
  • Children's schedules (56%)
  • Picky eaters (50%)
Meanwhile, seven in 10 Americans report that some other activity is competing with the typical family dinner, including watching TV (50%), cleanup from preparing dinner (26%) and telephone/cell phone conversations (16%). Americans are Ready to Make a Change Most Americans are motivated to improve their family dining experience.
  • Americans who eat dinner with others fewer than five days per week are interested in raising those numbers. Seventy-five percent of these Americans identified that getting the whole family eating together more often is important.
  • The majority of Americans want to enhance their family dinners by doing the following:
    • Eating at the table more often (62%)
    • Getting people more involved in meal preparation/cleanup (59%)
    • Staying at the table longer (51%)
"Share the Table: The State of Dinnertime in America" The study "Share the Table: The State of Dinnertime in America" was managed by StrategyOne – an applied marketing research firm based in New York. StrategyOne adopted a rigorous, three-phase academic approach to provide an authoritative assessment of the topic of shared dining.
  • Phase 1 – Discovery (a comprehensive literature review)
  • Phase 2 – Hypothesis Testing (six focus groups with a range of consumer segments)
  • Phase 3 – Validation – Empirical Study (a telephone survey of 2,008 U.S. adults)
Collaborator:
Following Phase 2, we brought our academic partner Dr. William J. Doherty, Ph.D., on board. His role was to provide expert guidance and support to the study hypotheses, quantitative research design and analysis, as well as to help shape the program recommendations that came out of the study.