“Me want food.” Anyone else watch 30 Rock? This is the thought bubble floating above my head at all times these days, so I thought it appropriate to blog consecutively about said subject matter.
My colleague Jeninne Lee-St. John pointed me to this article in Ad Age (did I mention I interned there? Worst internship of my life, except for Rolling Stone). It’s about how the drop in revenues suffered by the restaurant industry is due to the rise of stay-at-home moms.
For the first time since June Cleaver donned pearls and aprons in the 1950s, the percentage of women choosing to work outside the home has been flat to down for several years running. Not coincidentally, the number of meals purchased at restaurants per person has stopped growing too, for the longest sustained stretch in the 23 years NPD Group has tracked the number.
The decades-long rise of women in the work force — and the related rise of meals bought from restaurants — has ground to halt and begun to reverse since the turn of the millennium. The numbers have gotten little attention, and they fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but their ramifications are huge for restaurant, supermarket and food marketers.
Women’s participation rate in the paid U.S. labor force topped out at just above 60% in 1999 and again in 2001 but has fallen since then, according to the Labor Department. Restaurant meals, fueled for decades by the migration of moms to the work force, also topped out at 211 per person per year in 2001 according to NPD and likewise have been bouncing lower since, hitting 207 this year.
“Women’s participation rate in the paid U.S. labor force topped out at just above 60% in 1999 and again in 2001 but has fallen since then, according to the Labor Department,” says Ad Age. / Source: Ad Age
Okay. I have soooo many problems with this, I don’t know where to begin. Yes, I do. Let’s take on the fallacy that more women are staying at home. This 2005 New York Times article helped spur the media spitathon on this subject by reporting that some female graduates of elite universities were shunning careers to make babies. And many scholars hotly protest the study that alleges a very slight drop-off in women’s labor force participation, complaining of all manner of counting errors.
But most of all I protest because I am a working mom, and I eat at home. I’m an eat-at-home mom, as Jeninne cleverly put it. I eat at home because I prefer it to eating with strangers, colleagues or business clients (see post below). I eat at home because I like to share meals with my family. I eat at home because I’m cheap. I eat at home because I live in the ‘burbs and going out is a pain in the ass. I eat at home because I like to eat, and I like to know what’s in my food, and also I would like to remain this side of enormous for at least a few more years.
So listen up, you food marketers who read Ad Age (which, despite my internship experience, is a fine publication). Sell me tasty, nutritious packaged meals that I can whip up in a jiffy. Market all you want to my sisters who stay home with the kids, but don’t forget to target me. We’re all eat-at-home moms, dammit.
Where do you other working parents dine? LaDawn, PunditMom, Gerry?