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I have children. 2 in fact – both boys, ages 4 and 5.  That’s 12 months and 5 days apart. I am certainly not a parenting expert, not a mummy-blogger, nor can I claim to ensure quality nutritional sustenance to my offspring.

What I can do however,  is attempt to keep myself sane.  My usual fix for this comes in the form of a great glass of wine, perhaps a little piece of cheese and service from someone who cares that I exist.  The only problem with this scenario, is that generally I have 2 little people along for the ride.

Drinking Lemonade in Style
Drinking Lemonade in Style

It becomes an interesting metamorphosis.  See, I think that whether I walk into a venue with or without my 2 human additions, I am still me.  I still appreciate great customer service, I still need quality advice.  However, on many occasions, it would seem that I have somehow unknowingly become a life sucking creature of the deep, accompanied by my devil spawn; someone to avoid at all costs.   Service often becomes non-existent. It seems to be assumed that we don’t require another round of drinks, won’t pay for quality food and beverages, and of course won’t tip.  These issues are often encountered even when the venue is apparently “kid friendly”.

How wrong they are!  Because I, and many parents just like me, NEED to be looked after occasionally, and if you can help me to find a few awesome minutes during my day, with or without children in tow, then I am loyally yours.

So what’s the solution? What would happen if businesses changed focus: Instead of trying to be or not to be “Child Friendly”, what if they became “Parent Friendly”?

It makes sense – why be kid friendly anyway? Kids don’t have any money!

They won’t come back on another night with their husband, sister, mother, friends…. They won’t tell their work colleagues, friends, clients about what a fabulous venue you have with service that caters for everything you need, and they certainly wont book their birthday or event with you either.

5 Quick Changes to Increase your Parent Appeal:

  1. Welcome Every One Equally – never assume a parent with a child in tow is not financially viable.  Yes, my 4 yr old would live his life on fries if I allowed it, but my 5 yr old orders prawns where ever we go – he costs me a fortune, but if he is happy, I am happy.
  2. Act Quickly – offer food and beverage options and child activities as soon as possible (consider it the art of distraction). When kids are settled, parents relax.
  3. Maintain Your Equipment – electronics all working, pencils sharpened, toys clean.

Picture this: Sitting at a table, glass of wine in hand. Children excitedly head off to play in the zone of Playstation games. Perfect.

Suddenly, you are being nagged and harassed, tears begin (possibly your own) and stress levels rise. Why? The games are not working.  “Can you just fix it mum?” Staff look bewildered with a reply of “Oh, I’m no good at this” or “They were working this morning”, turning a perfect beginning into a let’s get the hell out of here.

Well done for providing kids entertainment, but please make sure it bloody works.

4. Communicate – train your staff to ask helpful questions and avoid assumptions. Will the kids eat first or wait for the adults? Is there anything you need, or would like removed? Engage the children respectfully too.

5. Think Logically.  A basic example – What is the logical outcome when serving a full, tall glass with a long straw to a child that can barely reach the table? They tip it to reach to straw!  Suddenly a well-behaved child has a spilt drink and a stressed parent through no fault of their own.  Try to have a little empathy for the parent too, no-one hopes for a misbehaving child. Sometimes things just don’t go to plan.

Particularly in service industries like hospitality, children often have the upper hand when it comes to choosing venues to frequent. If a child is happy, parents are also happy, and the parents will be more likely to return as the experience is positive.

Does “I can think of other places I’d like to go but the kids love it there” sound familiar?

And finally, a little word for parents:

Please understand that staff still need to serve other guests.  Come prepared with things to do, ring ahead where possible and advise your needs – pram room, high chair, quick service. Respect the needs of other customers and help others to help you. You will definitely see a difference.

Tough Cookie Marketing is based in Bendigo, Victoria and can assist all types of businesses to increase both Parent Appeal and revenue through “out of the box” service strategy and venue assessments. Contact Kathie Bolitho – kathie@toughcookiemarketing.com

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