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How to… capture the family market

14 March 2016
How to… capture the family market

Academic research has shown how to get the right reputation with dads and mums, says Peter Lugosi

Families represent an important market segment for restaurants and cafés. For parents and child carers, a visit to a café or restaurant is often work as much as it is leisure. Helping them with the work of childcare means they can focus on the leisure.

Seeing the experiences you offer through the eyes of parents and carers can help you appreciate that providing family-friendly hospitality can be child's play.

A study conducted by researchers at the Oxford School of Hospitality Management, Oxford Brookes University and the University of Queensland has shed light on how to create exceptional experiences for parents, carers and children that keep them coming back. Below are their nine tips for capturing the family market.

For more information about this study and its findings, contact Peter Lugosi via plugosi@brookes.ac.uk

How to keep families happy

1. The experience starts before people enter the venue Poor access puts people off. Lack of parking, awkward access between the car park and the venue and even narrow doorways may discourage parents, especially if they have to manoeuvre buggies.

2 It's the hospitality, stupid Many parents are cautious about visiting venues because they are unsure whether they are child-friendly. Welcoming parents and their children to the venue as soon they walk through the door is key to helping them relax. Even the smallest gestures, for example, asking how old the child is, can make a big difference.

3 Mind that child Focusing on the children as active decision makers is valued by parents and children. Nobody likes being ignored or talked over, including children. Engaging children in conversations, explaining dishes and encouraging them to make choices can lead to happier little customers.

4. Happy child, happy parent, happy customers
Talking with children, entertaining them and prioritising serving them before their parents can help to settle them. Keeping children content means their parents can relax. There is also less chance of them disturbing others.

5 Your hospitality is part of their childcare Parents of very young children fit their hospitality visits around their children's need to eat. Helping parents by providing small additional services, such as offering warm water for baby food, helps them to stay longer and keeps their children happy.

6 Their snack is your gain Don't be scared of some parents bringing the occasional snack or drink for small children. Adults may love your products and they will buy them for themselves, but they may not feel that your products are suitable for their children. As long as parents are consuming, consider being a little lenient. Observing what food they bring can also give you valuable tips about what you could offer to encourage their spend on children.

7 Design for distraction Open kitchens, drawings on the wall and other quirky design features are great for distracting children while they are waiting for food and drink. Visual treasure hunts keep young eyes and minds occupied.

8 Get other customers on board Just as small gestures of hospitality from staff can make your place feel welcoming, tutting and disapproval over breast-feeding or children's noise from other customers can make it seem unfriendly in a heartbeat. Emphasise to patrons that families are welcome.

9 A reputation for child (un)friendliness matters Parents who feel they have been mistreated will tell others. Gaining a reputation for asking breastfeeding mothers to leave your venue is not good publicity. Parenting social media sites spread word fast.

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