A recent report from UHY Hacker Young reveals there were more than 1,400 insolvencies in the restaurant sector between June 2018 and June 2019. Whether you blame Brexit, rising rents or the impact of Deliveroo and Ubereats. Fantastic customer service is the not-so-secret weapon that many restaurants are missing. And for restaurants hoping to appeal to families, we’ve got some insight to share.
Standing out in a crowded sector
As mid-market restaurant brands fall by the wayside, many have accused chains of being too samey. There’s no denying that plenty of brands share similar menus and price points. So how can those targeting the family market differentiate and win family diners away from competitors?
The obvious answer is to take the time to understand and serve customers better. The little things really do make a difference.
According to MCA’s Eating out in the UK Report 2018, 15.5% of eating out visits involve children. This figure rises to 18.4% for pub restaurant visits. Separate research from CGA Consumer Panel 2017 (source) also showed that children play a part in deciding where to eat out for over half of families. Cater well for kids and their parents will reward you with repeat custom.
We spoke to Lisa O’Keeffe, Senior Brand and Content Manager at Day Out With The Kids to find out what families look for when dining out in the UK. She confirmed that nailing customer service is the key to unlocking loyalty for family diners.
She told us: “Dining out together is something our families do together up to four times a month, with a large percentage regularly heading back to tried and tested favourites for one simple reason: the service. There’s nothing more stressful for parents than heading to a restaurant with the kids that simply isn’t geared up for the real and honest side of family dining, even if they advertise themselves as family-friendly.”
Making children your focus
You can do kids eat for a £1 or even boast ‘kids eat free’ to get customers through the door. But as Lisa explains it’s not all about money. Gearing up properly to serve child visitors and putting parents at ease makes it easier for them to spend their cash with you.
“Our families tell us they’re often worried about their kids being too noisy, or too messy,” said Lisa. “Any restaurant that can help to put parents’ minds at ease and be totally accepting of both these things is certainly likely to be a hit.”
Play areas, activity packs, bringing the kids’ meals out first and space around the table for things like pushchairs are all simple things to implement, but are so often overlooked.”
A pushchair friendly floor layout, plenty of high chairs and kid-friendly cutlery and cups, are practical ways to serve this group of customers before anyone sits down. These initial moments before your guests even browse a menu are crucial in reassuring families that they are in the right place.
Using WiFi Marketing
At Stampede we work with businesses to ensure their managed WiFi is set up to help them serve their family customers better. Context is everything when it comes to understanding customers’ dining priorities.
If someone signs into WiFi you can ask if they are visiting with children and show them relevant offers. You can build this information into future marketing communications and service encounters too. You can also add it into your wider service strategy. Knowing what proportion of custom comes from families and when they visit can help you to make informed business decisions.
Sounds too good to be true? Why not give it a try, to ensure you stay on top of your customers’ expectations.
We all know that WiFi can also be a useful tool for keeping kids entertained. But whatever your views on children using smartphones and tablets at the dining table, entertainment is a must.
As Lisa mentions above, a play area or activity packs can help guests to settle into the dining experience. A well-timed distraction can be the difference between abandoning meal plans and finding a new favourite dining spot. Don’t forget to cater for your youngest visitors too with a clean and easy-to-access baby change area. Make sure your employees know how to make breastfeeding mums feel welcome and comfortable too.
Employees that make a visit special
You’re all set up for family-friendly service thanks to the great floor design, menu and entertainment, but to really nail things you need to excel with customer service training. Your employees need to understand the context and priorities behind guests’ visits.
Is a family looking for a quick and convenient bite to eat after school? Perhaps they’re hoping for a stress-free trip to celebrate a family member’s birthday? Encourage waiting staff to build personalisation into their service approach for great table service. They should be able to signpost useful information quickly. This means doing things like:
- Asking about the reason behind the visit
- Asking about/providing high chairs
- Offering activity packs, crayons or information on your WiFi
- Asking parents if they’d like children’s food brought out first and letting them know how long food will take, updating if necessary
- Letting parents know where toilets, baby change, play areas are
It can also be helpful to let parents know if the kitchen can pack food to go. This may prompt parents to order dessert to eat at home later. It can also provide reassurance if a tired toddler meltdown means they want to head home earlier than expected. Omit, the key is to be attentive and offer fast efficient service without rushing diners.
Make your menu malleable
A kid’s menu that offers good value signals that you’re set up for younger guests. However, despite what the adverts would have you believe, not every kid likes to eat chicken nuggets or spaghetti in tomato sauce. Some do. But others like to have exactly what’s on Mummy and Daddy’s plate. Others love sliced olives or corn on the cob or can’t get enough cucumber. And while it’s great to have a balanced menu that encourages little ones to try new things, it’s also pretty smart to cater to what kids want to eat. This is something many restaurants are starting to pick up on.
Lisa told us: “When it comes to the menu, we’re also seeing a growing number of chain restaurants implementing a ‘pick your own’ approach to help meet the needs of fussier eaters.”
“The ability to create your own pairings makes it much more likely you can rustle up a meal for every child. But it’s also great when kitchens can be really flexible or even something as simple as plating up. Carrots stood in hummus rather than on the side can, and has, been the difference between a meal a kid will or won’t eat!”
Do you let diners mix and match starters and sides to keep kids happy? Do your serving staff know what type of requests your kitchen can accommodate? If you can magic up their real family favourites and keep kids munching long enough, parents could snatch extra moments of conversation. They might even order dessert.
Are you ready to step up your customer service?
As families’ disposable income continues to be squeezed in line with market pressure on restaurants, now’s the time to consider: is your establishment truly family-friendly?
Contact our team for a no-obligation chat to discuss how Stampede WiFi can help establish your pub, restaurant or café as the preferred dining location for families in your area.