Having entered the hospitality industry straight out of school, Mark Harris started his career washing dishes at Claridges. Over the years his experience and love for the sector has grown, enjoying roles at The Savoy Group of Hotels, The Capital Hotel, Green’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar, and Searcy’s at The Gherkin. Mark is now the Managing Director of Harris Restaurant Consultants, working with clients to build their businesses and expand their clientele.

How Can Cafes And Restaurants Make Their Spaces More Parent/Child Friendly?

Offer child-friendly and cleanable equipment from chairs, menus, utensils and even their own crockery (melamine) and cutlery. Even the decor can be child-friendly, and this does not necessarily mean having cartoon characters stenciled on the walls but can be imaginative lighting and fabrics to amuse children. Simple activity packs can keep children entertained. Then of course for the tech-friendly family, which is most these days, have phone charging facilities near to the table – a battery dying phone or tablet that has held a child’s interest for some time causes anxiety.

What Are Your Top 3 Tips For Improving Customer Service When Serving Families?

  1. As with all guest interaction, it is so important to read the guest. Is it appropriate to be making a fuss of the child? Do the parents look stressed? Speak to the children through their parents and get permission to say hello.
  2. Ensure the child’s order is taken first and they are served first. (or ask the parents if they would like their order to be
    sped through the kitchen). This will relax the children as well as the parents!
  3. Think ahead and always keep thinking how you can make the family experience as good as it can be without becoming over familiar or a nuisance.

What Are The Common Mistakes You Have Seen Operators Make?

Many operators fail to target both elements of the family and their needs. On the one hand there are the children that the parents want to see looked after and treated well and then on the other hand there are the parents who also want to be looked after albeit in a different way to their children. Complex menus also make it hard for parents to make quick and easy decisions.
The biggest mistake is where restaurants promote themselves as being family friendly, yet have a team of untrained staff who do not know how to deliver service and hospitality for both the children and/or the adults.

When Building A Children’s Menu, What Should Operators Include?

The key tip is to have a number of ingredients and accompaniments that can be mixed and matched. The kitchen should also be prepared to use ingredients from the main menu upon request and then also be flexible enough to offer dishes from the main menu in smaller portions and at reduced prices.
Also think about dishes that can be ‘grazed’ on by children that do not deteriorate if not eaten immediately – chicken strips, nuggets, speciality sausages, crudités and dips etc. There is also the enjoyment factor for the children to be considered, especially as they get a little older and understand the concept of going to a restaurant. To be like the grown-ups, perhaps they would like a starter, a main and a dessert?