Families represent an important market segment for restaurants and cafés. A study conducted by researchers at The Oxford School of Hospitality Management, Oxford Brookes University and the University of Queensland sheds light on how to create exceptional experiences for parents, carers and children that keep them coming back! Here are 9 tips for operators:

9 tips for creating exceptional experiences for parents, carers and children

  1. The experience starts before people enter the venue

Poor access puts people off venues. Lack of parking, awkward access between the car park and the venue and even narrow doorways may discourage parents from going near your venue, especially if they have to manoeuvre buggies.

  1. 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. Service staff acknowledging that parents are 'doing' childcare can reassure them that they are welcome.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 like offering warm water for baby food, for example, helps them to stay for longer whilst keeping their children happy.

  1. 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 and drink they bring can also give you valuable tips about what you could be offering to encourage their spend on children.

  1. 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.

  1. Get other customers on board

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

  1. Reputation for child (un)friendliness matters

Parents who feel they have been mistreated in venues 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!

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!

You can read a copy of the published paper free until the 7th of April 2016: http://goo.gl/u9cbGp

About The Oxford School of Hospitality Management 

The Oxford School of Hospitality Management is a leading provider of higher education in the field of international hospitality and tourism management. The School has achieved an international reputation for teaching excellence and innovation, as well as strong links with business and industry. The School is ranked in the top three hospitality schools in the world (Worldwide Hospitality School Awards 2016) and top in the UK for student satisfaction (KIS data, 2016).

For more information visit http://hospitality.brookes.ac.uk/

Caitlin Hopes
01865 485822
Oxford Brookes

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