“Harden’s Eating Out With Babies & Toddlers guide, revealed 31% of parents have been turned away by a food venue while with their young family and 92% claim they struggle to find a family-friendly venue when they are out.”
Is your pub really making your youngest customers and their parents feel at home? Having a children’s menu, that takes account of smaller portions and healthy choices, should only be the start of your strategy to cater to families. High chairs, baby changing stations, and booster seats are all necessary tools in your arsenal when it comes to making your family guests feel at home.
The Soil Association recently polled UK parents on what they thought of children’s menus at some leading branded chains. To find out how to design a menu parents will approve of download this pdf of the methodology employed to score parents’ responses. If you design a menu around the high scoring answers you could steal a march on your competitors (especially the big brand chains).
According to Nutmeg (an investment research company) UK parents spend, on average, £191 on children’s parties and a survey of 1,005 parents by research firm Global Market Insite (September 2013) identified their top five family-friendly requests:
- a special children’s menu (84%)
- children’s entertainment – i.e. crayons and colouring book at the table (79%)
- high chairs or booster seats (74%)
- baby changing facilities (71%);
- child-friendly staff (70%).
Seating For Children
In years gone by, high chairs were pretty basic, and usually an afterthought in any pub or restaurant. These days you have many options when it comes to high chairs, and these important pieces of furniture can actually complement your décor instead of taking away from it. Wooden high chairs and plastic high chairs are available in a variety of styles and colours, allowing you to choose something that blends in and looks good. You don’t need to break the bank either, as this high chair from Mothercare at £19.99 proves
Baby seat cradles or baby seat holders are also another way to make any young family feel right at home in your pub. They provide a convenient and safe stand for any car baby seat, and they’re available in a variety of colours.
Booster seats for slightly older kids don’t have to be an ugly chunk of plastic anymore either. Wood finish booster seats, complete with safety strap, are a big improvement over the classic moulded plastic booster seat. If you want to stick with that classic plastic moulded booster seat, at least you can choose from a variety of colours so they don’t have to stick out like a sore thumb.
And for your toilets, baby changing stations have pretty much become standard equipment, even in the gents in some outlets. Luckily companies are making a variety of configurations so that the baby changing station in your toilet fits with the layout. Choose from horizontal changing tables for babies, wall mounted changing tables, and recessed baby diaper changing table versions that will fit almost any size wall, giving you flexibility when you add or replace the baby changing stations in your pub.
For children who have started using toilets at home a plastic seat insert that increases the seat area for a child is an inexpensive way to show that you have thought of all their needs. (Parents will thank you and remember that little extra service … just the sort of thing that gets talked about at the school gate or at parents’ groups)
Being family friendly might start with the menu, but for your customers, the proof is in the pudding when it comes to anticipating and effectively accommodating their needs with the equipment that makes your establishment feel a little more like home.
Children Are Easily Bored
Menus, furniture and equipment are all well and good but you will need to remember that children, even the most well behaved, have notoriously short attention spans. Once you’ve fed them (and their parents) you will want to keep them entertained for as long as the family is staying and you want them to stay as long as possible.
Providing child-friendly activities, games, party packs and dedicated play areas will help.
For the younger ones, and only with their parents’ express permission you could offer the “Goody Box”. Create a box of “goodies”, find a small leftover container and fill it with things you find around the pub or at a craft store such as foam pieces that come in different colours and shapes, shiny things, dull things, cotton balls, paper and crayons, playdough etc. Keep this container in your bar so you are always prepared (if you are really creative, you can decorate the container).
Remember the risks associated with sharp objects and choking risks when you stock the box; for advice why not ask your local children’s nursery or pre-school group for advice (a good way of advertising, by the way, as the organisers will be sure to mention it to parents in passing).
Another way to keep younger children entertained is to provide place mat covers that can be coloured in or dedicated colouring-in books; your staff can interact with these youngest of customers and make it clear that they can use them and keep them when they go.
Older children get bored too, and with increasing numbers of youngsters having their own smartphone you should make sure you have free wi-fi available.
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