family sitting down at a table together

Continuing Positive Habits Formed During the Pandemic, Eating Around the Dinner Table Continues

Last Updated on April 29, 2022

The practice of gathering at the dinner table for a meal is a tradition that has changed over time. As Americans’ schedules became more hectic and handheld technology became more prevalent, it has become more difficult for families to sit down for dinner, disconnect, and break bread.

But that changed in 2020.

According to a recent study conducted by ButcherBox, 44 percent of the Americans surveyed reported that they have started to sit down for dinner more often because of the pandemic.

While that is the biggest takeaway, here is what we also learned:

  • 40 percent sit down for dinner the same amount as they did prior to the pandemic.
  • More than half of those surveyed—56 percent—report gathering for dinner most nights with a quarter of those respondents—26 percent—reporting that they sit down for dinner every night.
  • Of the 44 percent of Americans who reported they did not sit down consistently for dinner, more than three-quarters—76 percent—wish they did so more often.
  • Busy work schedules and arriving home late from work appear to be the biggest challenges to more consistent time at the table with a third of the respondents—37 percent—citing those as the reasons for not having a sit-down dinner at home.

These findings suggest that the pandemic has not only led to more people eating at home but also has made mealtimes around the dinner table more prevalent as well.

“Gathering with people who you love to celebrate the end of the day with great food and conversation is an unbelievably powerful experience,” said ButcherBox founder and CEO Mike Salguero. “I believe making an intentional, purposeful commitment to gather around the dinner table has significant physical and mental health benefits, along with the health benefits of eating a home-cooked meal. It’s reassuring to see this positive behavior continue to remain a constant for so many Americans as we come out of such a challenging time.”

Generational Shifts in Dinner Habits

Half of the millennial and Generation Z respondents stated that the pandemic has changed their outlook on cooking and sitting down for dinner in a positive way.

Separately, 49 percent of those millennials and Gen Z-ers cook more at home as a result of the pandemic, with only 16 percent saying they plan to go back to their pre-pandemic dining and eating habits as COVID restrictions loosen.

Some other findings relating to generational dining and eating habits:

  • Almost half of the respondents—47 percent—eat dinner at a traditional kitchen or formal dining room table.
  • Only 35 percent of respondents over the age of 45 choose the more traditional seating options for their mealtimes.
  • However, more than half of the respondents from the millennial and Gen Z generations—52 percent—are opting to eat at their kitchen or dining room tables.

“Not only are younger generations embracing the idea of family dinner, regardless of how they define family, but they have clearly gained the confidence to prepare that meal on their own,” said Salguero.

“Even as COVID restrictions lift, it’s clear the habits these generations have formed over the last two years, coupled with the knowledge and confidence of being in the kitchen, have had a positive impact on how they view gathering for dinner, or any meal.”

Additional Insights

Dinner Traditions at Home

  • More than three-quarters of respondents—79 percent—have practices, rules, or weekly traditions when it comes to dinner.
  • For example, one-in-three respondents—29 percent—have some kind of meal tradition on certain days of the week whether that be adhering to themed dinners like “Taco Tuesday” or always having pizza on Friday nights.
  • When it comes to dinner table etiquette, 30 percent of the respondents have a “no cell phones and electronics at the table” rule.

Cleaning is the Worst Part of Dinner

  • One-third of Americans—33 percent—believe cleaning up after dinner is the most difficult part of mealtime.
  • Shopping for ingredients, prepping the meal, and cooking weren’t nearly inconvenient for the respondents as cleaning up after a meal.
  • All generations are in agreement.

Dinner Time Remains the Same

  • Nearly 30 percent of respondents eat dinner between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
  • 17 percent of respondents did not have a set dinner time and eat whenever they can or at various times when their schedule permits.

Back-to-School Challenges with the Time of Dinner Leads to More Takeout

  • 70 percent of respondents with school-aged children, reported feeling overwhelmed during maintaining consistent dinner times while school is in session.
  • In an effort to maintain mealtime routines during the school year, nearly two-thirds of those parents—64 percent—resorted to ordering takeout or purchasing dinner outside of the home.

Survey Methodology

The findings are based on a Pollfish survey of 1,745 United States residents aged 25 and older that have used key kitchen appliances within two weeks of completing the questionnaire which uses Random Device Engagement survey technology.

Kerin Norton is the Head of PR and Content Strategy at ButcherBox.