Gone are the days when fast food joints were the only ones considered to be a fun place for families to dine out. While couples may have differing views about what constitutes a good restaurant dining experience, kids of all ages have liked places that were “fun”. When McDonald’s first Happy Meal box was introduced in June 1979, The Circus Wagon themed toys were well received by children as well as their parents. The innovative idea was not just a marketing gimmick, but opened an avenue for other restaurants to think about their younger customers as well.
But is “fun” and “toys” the only way to make a restaurant family-friendly? Just like grown ups, children and their taste for finer foods has evolved over the years. Today, children also look forward to a restaurant experience which is much akin to fine dining, with varied foods that satisfied their increasingly sophisticated pallets.
So how do you maintain a fine balance? How do you appeal to families with kids of different ages? Does a restaurant just have to be a place where people can get their meals or should it be of bigger service? Here are 6 ways in which restaurants can attract families and keep them filled and entertained throughout their dining.
As mentioned, kids nowadays are more adventurous when it comes to their choice of food. Studies show that kids are now picking up on the taste of Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, which are richer and spicier than others. However, most restaurants design kids menus by omitting foods that have stronger tastes and flavours and replace them with milder foods.
Start by creating a menu that can be equally enjoyed by kids as well as their parents. Include flavourful foods that can help children develop their pallet. Apart from a vibrant kids menu, children will also enjoy the idea of playing with their food. Family friendly restaurants can have menus with cheese fondue, mini chocolate fountain or fried ice creams that are fun foods as well as entertainment. This brings us to our second recommendation.
“Build your own meal” is a very popular service in some restaurants where children are allowed to pick the ingredients of their choice for their meal. A 2018 survey from Y-Pulse, a food-focused marketing research firm from Chicago, 87% of the kids like restaurants that let build their own meals.
Sampling foods are also a great option for kids to try out different flavours of foods in a go. Getting a flight of 3 to 4 of different ice cream samples or pancake syrups can help intrigue kids as they get to taste different flavours of the foods they like. Such foods will also help a family with many kids, wherein the parents can encourage their children to share the food between them.
What constitutes a good dining experience? From a customer’s perspective, a good dining experience starts from the minute he or she steps into a restaurant. The venue’s ambient light and music, its seating arrangement, the waiter’s attitude and the food served are all part of the experience. So what does it mean to “go beyond” this?
Families with children have slightly different expectations about a restaurant. While they may look forward to the fine dining feel, they may also need a place where their children can also be comfortable and stay interested. And kids being kids, may require something more than candle lights and good food to keep them happy about the whole experience.
This is where restaurants can work their creativity. From dedicated children’s zones to special activities, anything that can keep the young ones occupied till meal time is much welcomed by parents. Many restaurants now have kids sections where children can engage in activities like reading, listening to stories or playing indoor games with a caretaker staff who can keep an eye on them.
Face paint artists, storytellers, arts and crafts trainers and magicians and can also be hired from time to time, which will keep the kids occupied at the restaurant till meal time. This is not only a fun experience for the young ones, but will also give some quiet and peace to the parents.
Trivia nights are another great way for restaurants to keep their family crowd entertained. Today, thousands of restaurants all over the world are warming up to the idea of bringing back family trivia nights – which was at one time a very famous family activity in many homes across the world – to the restaurant tables. With the help of hand-held tablets, restaurants can host fun quizzes for all ages.
Not only are trivia nights fun, but they are also educational. Young parents who have grown up playing such games at home during their childhood may appreciate the effort of bringing back memories, along with teaching them something new with every question. In all the right sense, trivia nights can be a fun “edutainment” experience for the whole family.
A lot of young parents may not find enough time for themselves as they raise their kids and juggle with their work and home. Date nights become less and less as every outing and every dinner becomes a family affair. If a family has a stay-at-home nanny to take care of the kids, it usually gives the parents some free time for themselves. But, what about the others?
Many restaurants all over the world are now introducing date nights for parents where they win over young couples by offering free babysitting services. By partnering with babysitting services, these restaurants are providing parents a great chance to have their personal time.
Instead of going mainstream with “kids eat free” promotions, offer parents to have a date night. With children well taken care of away from the dining area, not only can couples have a good alone-time but can also save a few dollars on the kids meals as well.
A family friendly restaurant is not just a place where the entire family can have a good meal together. It should be a place where they can unwind, munch on delicacies and have some fun which they miss out on in their daily lives. Remember, it’s all about the guest experience. From the toddlers to the grandparents, everyone should have something to look forward to at a family restaurant. And unlike before, sophistication has become just as important as keeping things light and fun!
Looking for ways to improve the customer experience at your restaurant in Dubai? Reach out to our hospitality consultants for the latest insights and sound advice on the matter.