Being a family-friendly hospitality business is not just the right thing to do, but also makes economic sense for hospitality businesses.
That was the message of Carrie Longton, co-founder of popular parenting website Mumsnet, speaking at today's British Hospitality Association 2017 Summit, in London.
"These are precious times for these parents. They have understandably strong views on what they want and what they expect from brands," she said.
Longton begged hospitality businesses to put themselves in the position of a "knackered parent" and to consider training staff in the small actions that make a big difference to a parent's experience, for example bringing bread and water to a table instantly, asking parents how they are and moving breakables away from little hands. "Understand that these things make a huge difference to someone's day and they will keep coming back even if they don't like your pizza," she said, adding such training also demonstrates to your staff how important they are to your business.
Engage and enfranchise
"People like to be asked questions and they like people to listen to the answers," said Longton. "Every time you ask a question you are helping shape your brand so you can serve them [families] better. By listening to them, you are engaging and enfranchising them, and they can help shape your strategy and your marketing."
Create family experiences
"It matters that you get those experiences right," she stressed. "Giving our children joy makes us feel like better parents. Think about how you can create that family moment - a safe haven where they can have some fun. Create a stress-free environment where that family time can happen. What we often crave is more time as a family, not less."
Endear through the everyday things
A lot of her research showed it was fairly simple things that parents remembered and meant they would return to a hospitality business. She explained how food equated to guilt for many parents, and a sure fire way to make parents happy is to provide a children's menu with "something proper to eat", as well as ensuring sharp crayons are on hand to entertain younger children, or board games and cards to get older families talking rather than staring at their phones. She added that speed matters, and Wahaca's app payment capability came up as a popular option for parents with younger children who have lost patience with sitting at a table.
"Be bold and experiment", she urged businesses. She gave the example of Hallmark hotels, which offered one mum the option of a free drink rather than having her room made up each day. "There are loads of things you can do that may save you money."
She added: "All of this is not about being nice it's about economics. Being family friendly is the right thing to do and in the current climate we could all do with a bit more kindness and altruism, but it also makes economic sense. If your brand can create an environment that really works for families you'll get more business. It's worth investing in it."
Videos from The Caterer archives
Are you looking for a new role? See all the current hospitality vacancies available with The Caterer Jobs