Operators have been urged to rethink staff training, accessibility and physical design of their venues in a bid to appeal to young families, who make 3.1 billion visits to the UK’s hospitality industry each year.
Making a special effort to focus on the experience of children, such as asking them questions, remembering names and providing children’s cutlery meant families were more likely to be loyal to a particular pub or restaurant.
Design features like open kitchens, which allow children to watch chefs preparing food, and colourful walls also added to parent’s overall experiences.
Poor parking, long waits and venues that don’t cater for pushchairs topped the list of complaints from parents. Being made to feel unwelcome by other customers also emerged as a major issue. Many parents in the study by Oxford Brookes University and the Oxford School of Hospitality said they were conscious of other customers’ reactions to them and “hostile” behaviour like tutting, sighing and complaining meant they were unlikely to visit again and would tell friends not to go.
Several parents said they avoided places that were too quiet, choosing to visit venues which were reasonably noisy, bright and had separate areas for families.
Big chains didn’t perform well in the research, with the experience they offered families described as “lacking” by one respondent, who said: “It’s all a bit slapdash, there’s no care taken, it doesn’t feel homely, it doesn’t feel comfortable and doesn’t feel friendly a lot of the time.”
Researchers interviewed 47 families about their experiences eating and drinking out in a range of venues, including pubs.
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