How To Run A Profitable Family Friendly Restaurant…

It sounds obvious but you need a plan.

Most people open restaurants because they love food, they’re passionate cooks but they’re not necessarily business orientated.  If you want to run (or already run) a family focused or friendly restaurant you need to plan how you are going to market your restaurant to that niche.

Personally I loved taking my daughter to a family friendly pizza restaurant when she was small.  We probably visited the same place for about 10 years.  It had tiled floors so any mess could easily be cleaned up and plenty of elbowroom between the tables, so when she would get up and wander around the table (as kids do) there was no fear of her bumping into tables and annoying other diners.

As a family we felt comfortable there.  I was happy and my daughter was happy and you want your children to feel welcome when you go out, it's important.

So when it comes to planning a family friendly restaurant the owner needs to consider cutting down on capacity from something like 60 to 50 tables, just so there’s room for strollers and kids to move around.  You may also forget fabric banquette seats which can’t be wiped down and avoid the $30,000 carpet which crayons and food will be squashed into.  You will probably have to say goodbye to people who don’t want to dine with the noise of kids in the background.  The other side of that is they you will attract a lot of clients who, like me are grateful for a space where they can relax and enjoy a family friendly dining experience.

You have to think it through and decide if this is something you are committed to, you cannot ride two horses in the same race and win.

Either this is a place where you welcome, families, strollers, noise and mess or you don’t, if you try to appeal to both audiences you will not win the hearts and dollars of either.”

If you decide that you are going to have a family friendly (or focused place) then think outside the square with marketing initiatives, which encourage families to come and dine and engenders long term relationships.

“Colouring-in competitions, are a no brainer, but they don’t add a thing to your business if it’s just colouring-in you have to build in out-bound follow up marketing.

Get one of the parents to put their name and contact details on the picture, then at the end of the month you can choose a kid for a prize and get the family back in for a free meal.

“If 200 people enter and you choose five winners, you still have 195 runners up.  Those kids can also receive a prize for entering (a mega ice cream with sprinkles for instance) and if 50% of them respond you have 98 more families coming in and spending money they never would have spent.  The kids feel validated they’ve won a prize, they ask the parents if they can go back”

See if you can buy out-of-date toys from supermarket vending machines in the past we supplied these to restaurants we worked with.  Restaurateurs gave theme to kids at the end of the meal.  They get a toy, they love it, they beg to go back, the parents are happy, the kids are occupied and it’s only cost a dollar brings them back – it’s been a small investment for return custom.

Avoid the “one-hit raffle prize” which fundraisers often request.  Instead think about giving away certificates to local schools so they can award “student of the week” awards in each class for a high performing or much improved student – the prize?  A free kids meal at your restaurant. The cost of the kids meal might be $3 and you now have a family there and if you do it through various classes at multiple schools, you have built relationships with many families who now come to your restaurant .

In conclusion:

  1. A Good Kids Menu will attract discerning parents… (parents care about what their kids eat these days so are more likely to return to a restaurant who serve healthier options)
  2. Use the colouring-in competition as a way of getting repeat business.
  3. Offer weekly awards to all the local junior schools for student of the week. Then do the same thing for children’s sports teams for Best and Fairest player, Team player, Most Improved and so on. This should be provided to the coach of each team in the age range that you want to attract.
  4. For coffee shops and cafes target local day care and pre-school centres with flyers offering free muffins/scones to mums when they buy a coffee with a friend after dropping the kids off. Or free “Fairy Bread” (yes I know it’s not very healthy! but it works because kids love it) when they come for a coffee after school.
  5. Make a BIG deal about FREE Baby-chinos (when a parent is also dining or having a coffee). The strategy of not charging for a small cup of warm milk will win repeat business and word of mouth marketing as mums talk to each other about the place who looks after them and cares about their kids.

Want to chat about your restaurant's success?  Call me...