A 2015 study by bighospitality.co.uk reported that three-quarters of families are now eating out more regularly than they were five years ago. With figures like this, it’s easy to see why savvy hospitality operators are keen to exploit the potential for maximising profits that tapping into this market can bring.
Operators in the casual dining sector often lead the way in making families feel valued and welcome, although we speak to many pub managers who are quickly catching on. Strategies like giving out crayons or colouring books on arrival can quickly bring favour with not just the kids, but parents who are likely to appreciate the relaxation and repose that will likely result from having their children entertained.
Small outlays in staff training on best practice for serving families can also lead to big rewards. Simply advising your employees to seat families close to television screens and bathrooms can make a big difference to the atmosphere in your site, encouraging customers, families or otherwise, to linger and spend more cash.
For operators whose goal is happy families, it’s also a great idea to spend some time carefully considering your food offer. Depending on the size and nature of kitchen facilities and trading style, special children’s menus may be the perfect way to broaden your appeal. Alternatively, if a specific style of food is your stock in trade, creating smaller versions of main menu dishes can satisfy parents and children alike. Inventive ways of introducing healthier options to kids’ menus will also earn plaudits from parents. It’s also wise to consider speed of service. Can your children’s options be turned around quick enough to satisfy hungry young stomachs? If not, could you offer extras like breadsticks or other nibbles to keep children happy while they wait for their meal?
However, especially for operators in the pub sector, going all out on embracing families can mean you risk alienating more traditional adult clientele. The Good Pub Guide recently reported “unruly children” as the most likely cause of negative experiences in licensed premises, and with family-led trade inherently centred on weekends and school holidays, the value of customers seeking a traditional adult-focused atmosphere should not be forgotten.
Compromise can be the best solution. Some operators choose to limit children’s access to their sites after certain times, while we speak to many more who designate certain areas, typically bars, as adults only. Strategies like these can allow the big majority of family-driven sales opportunities to be exploited, but still allow a site to retain large elements of a relaxing, adult atmosphere that may be key to optimising drink sales.
In our food-led pub-restaurants, the open plan layouts lend themselves to an offer that is enjoyed by all. Children can be kept away from the bar and seated at tables with easy access to bathrooms and outside areas, reducing the chance of disturbances. As such, refurbishments are not just a chance to brighten up your site, but also to think hard about how your layout can work for you and maximise the potential of your space.
Ultimately, today’s children are tomorrow’s potential best customers, so keeping them and their families happy can create valuable brand loyalty. With careful consideration, this can be done in a way that will open tomorrow’s doors without shutting windows today, maximising profits both in the short and long term and ensuring a bright future.