Kikkoman masters 20

Child’s Play

Make your establishment family friendly this summer

It’s here again – six weeks of school holidays and whilst your first reaction may be to pull a face, stop and consider what this could mean to your business: increased custom and profit. Families up and down the country will be holidaying, visiting relatives and generally trying to keep their children amused. This will inevitably involve eating out and the more your venue caters to families, the more you could benefit.

Caterers that capitalise on the family sector will rake in additional revenue; and the trick is to appeal to both adults and children. Parents may make final decisions and pay the bill, but children will often dictate where the family ultimately chooses to eat. Parents will be looking for value for money, healthy options and a child friendly,clean and welcoming environment. Children will be looking for entertainment, food they like and a friendly atmosphere.

Since the smoking ban came into force in 2007, there has been a 3% increase in eating out, according to Mitchells & Butlers’ investor review.  In monetary terms, spend on eating out has increased by £17 billion since 2003.  A main component of this market is families; they drive up food sales, create high spend for short stays and often involve large groups.

So how can you effectively cater for families?

Menu Mixes

Get your food offering right to appeal to both parents and children – look at your target market to decide if you need a separate children’s menu. Parents often like half portion options of standard menu dishes for their kids.  As Yummy Pub’s Tim Foster explains, the chain offers a range of options, ensuring that these are tailored to what parents want. “While we’ve tried various options – half-portion, half-price, set menu with starter, main and pud – offering kids’ classics and being flexible around parents’ needs and wants is most successful.”

If you decide to go for a bespoke children’s menu, you could gain inspiration from award-winning, family friendly pub the Manor Arms in London. Its kids’ menu changes daily and includes vegetarian choices and organic, seasonal produce. At £6.50 including juice and a piece of fruit, the menu achieves a healthy 65% gross profit.

The Eagle and Child in Ramsbottom, Lancashire has novel ways of attracting families. Tenant Glen Duckett explains: “We’ve put together a great value kids’ menu including mini-versions of our pub classics such as mini-chicken and ham hock pie with cheesy mash topping for £4.95, using quality local ingredients. We begin by getting kids out collecting eggs for their dinner from our new hens. We show them where we grow fruit and veg in our Incredible Edible Beer Garden. Giving young visitors these experiences gets them asking their parents to take them to the pub – surely every adult’s dream.”

To find out what might work best in your area, why not consult children at a local school or current family customers to see what menu options they would like to see?

High Street Trends

A study of successful high street chains such as McDonald’s, Frankie and Benny’s and Giraffe, shows that small bites, colourful packaging and presentation pitched at the right price is a winning formula.  It’s important to remember that the family market is key to incremental sales of drinks and desserts, so ensure you offer a range of drinks and fantastic, fun desserts.  A key trend demonstrated by operators such as Pizza Express is to get children making their own food. The chain lets children create their own pizzas while Pizza Hut has the popular ice cream factory where children pump their own ice cream and create their own sundaes by adding their own choice of toppings.

Busy Bees

To ensure other customers are not irritated by children, keep them busy. Colouring sheets and crayons are a low cost way of occupying children, or you could create an indoor or outdoor playing area. The Pear Tree pub in York has won over families with an impressive soft-play area featuring an indoor tree-house and interactive games and screens including XBox and PlayStations. Parents can even watch their kids on parent cam-screens. By ‘zoning’ and keeping children separate, the pub is reducing the risk of offending and alienating their regular adult customers.

Childproof Your Premises

Your décor and equipment need to immediately make it clear that you welcome families. Make seating appropriate for families such as larger tables with child friendly chairs and a good supply of clean high chairs. Dedicated changing facilities are also a must and thoughtful additions like pram storage at the entrance will go down well with parents. It is essential to review your premises from a hygiene and safety point of view too – ensure the guarding of any open fires, that no ornaments are within easy reach and that hazards such as hot food stations and cleaning products are out of reach of small hands!


Happy Face

Good and friendly service is valuable to the family market so make sure your staff are well trained and offer service with a smile.  Make a family feel welcome and they will return. Ensure your staff are attentive and perceptive and coach them in ‘wowing’ families.  Simple things like offering to serve children’s meals immediately can be a real winner for parents. To cater successfully for families you may need to consider more front of house staff which can pay dividends as they can effectively manage tables, offer more drinks and really upsell your menu.

Think Outside The Box

Review your current resources and see if you can offer something a little bit extra. Many establishments offer a retail experience in addition to their food offering. Examples include an old fashioned sweet shop, an ice cream or toy shop. Snacks are key to this market so even if a family doesn’t want a meal, be sure to offer snacks. Adapting your venue to families is key. Yorkshire Dales Ice Cream near Skipton has done this fantastically well.  It launched a 50s-style American themed ice cream parlour at its farm near Bolton Abbey. Billy-Bob’s Ice Cream Parlour is a  large ranch house which offers American food such as pancakes, hot dogs and incorporates Yorkshire Dales’ range of ice creams.  By offering free entry to its barn play area and outdoor wooden play area it attracts large numbers of families.

So this summer, remember that attracting families really is child’s play. With a few thoughtful changes you can reap the rewards of this highly lucrative market.

Have a look at our quick pointers in Family Values.

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