New study reveals that today’s busy lifestyles are causing Canadian families to eat together less

McDonald's Restaurant


  • Two-thirds of Canadian parents wish their family ate together more often, according to a new survey from McDonald’s Canada
  • McDonald’s Family Nights create a fun and engaging space for families to spend time together and enjoy a meal as a family

TORONTO, Feb. 26, 2020 – A new survey* commissioned by McDonald’s Canada reveals that Canadian parents say that their families do not eat together as often as they would like, with being “too busy” as a consistent theme to not spending time together as a family at mealtimes.

While the survey found that almost all (98 per cent) of Canadian parents believe it is important to eat together as a family, nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) wish their family ate together more often.

More than a quarter (27 per cent) of Canadian parents say that they don’t have enough time to prepare home-cooked meals for their family on a regular basis, with the same number indicating that overall their family is just too busy to eat together on a regular basis.

In an effort to help today’s busy parents, and build new ways for them to bond and create memories with their kids over family mealtimes, McDonald’s Canada recently introduced Family Nights, which take place every Wednesday night from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at participating restaurants. McDonald’s Family Nights include free kid-friendly crafts and games, as well as dedicated McDonald’s staff to offer table service, ensure high chairs are clean and available, lead activities, and surprise and delight kids with balloons and other giveaways.

“Families have always been at the core of McDonald’s Canada’s values, and we are continually looking for ways to elevate the family experience,” said Michelle McIlmoyle, Senior National Marketing Manager, McDonald’s Canada. “We know it can be hard for busy parents to find the time to connect with their kids over a meal, which is why we’ve created a dedicated night – with fun, kid-friendly activities – that allow families to spend quality time together. With added conveniences like table service and dedicated guest experience leaders, McDonald’s Family Nights make it easy for busy parents to create memories with their families over food that everyone enjoys and parents can feel good about their family eating.”

Parents cited a number of reasons as to why they are unable to eat together as a family, with the main factors being:

  • Parents’ work schedules (57 per cent)
  • Kids’ sports and extracurricular activities (33 per cent)
  • Social commitments (23 per cent)

Busy schedules aside, children’s emotions (16 per cent), different food preferences of family members (14 per cent) and parents’ cooking skills (6 per cent) also contribute to the barriers Canadian families feel prevent them from eating together as a family.

The survey also revealed a generational change in the family dynamics of eating together. Canadian parents said that they are cooking less for their kids (46 per cent) and eating together as a family less often (40 per cent) than their parents did with them.

Other key stats from the survey include:

  • On average, Canadian parents surveyed said their family prepares a meal from scratch and eats it together at home less than four nights per week
  • Over three-quarters (76 per cent) of parents said that dining out makes life easier when they get busy, with more than half of parents (55 per cent) agreeing that dining out makes it easier for their family to spend time doing other activities
  • Speed is important: on average, Canadian parents surveyed have approximately 50 minutes to have a mid-week family meal at a restaurant
  • When families dine together, factors that negatively impact spending quality time together include phones/tablets (62 per cent), television (45 per cent) and toys (27 per cent)
  • Conversation most positively impacts quality family time at dinner (82 per cent)

Survey Methodology
*Online survey hosted on the Angus Reid Forum from November 22 to November 26, 2019 with a representative sample of 1,522 Canadians aged 18-54 who are parents to at least one child aged 2-12. The margin of error is +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Related Stories