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National Restaurant Association - Why your restaurant should connect with kids

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Why your restaurant should connect with kids

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Connecting with kids and their parents calls for conscientious marketing that appeals to both. Beyond colors and imagery, brand marketing can focus on greater choices of food and the guest experience.

“Dining out is often done to celebrate special occasions and to gather around a table,” Jennifer Bilbro, founder of Out to Eat with Kids, a consulting company that links restaurants to families and provides online tools for parents. “This includes children. Restaurants that seek to be included in a family’s dining decision need to consider kids in their menu planning and overall strategy.”

How parents and children perceive their experience at your restaurant could have the greatest impact on their loyalty. A recent Kidzsmart survey asked children what they like most about going out to eat with their parents. Their top answer was spending time with their family (60 percent), followed by fun (48 percent) and the food (43 percent).

Kidzsmart’s Terry Hamer, director of business development, says restaurants can boost business by looking at the family experience. “To inspire frequency, restaurants need to create the best possible branded experience in which families celebrate time together.”

Here are four strategies to help you build loyalty with families:

  • Offer a variety of food. The more kids’ options you provide, the greater your appeal will be. NRA research shows that healthful kids’ meals are among the top menu trends this year, indicating that families are increasingly looking for those options, such as those that qualify for the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program. And restaurants are stepping up to the plate, as 87 percent of parents with children under 18 say there are more healthful menu options available now than there were two year ago.

“Restaurants are in a unique position to introduce children to new, exciting foods and win their loyalty at an early age,” Bilbro says. “Offering choices that are fun – such as fruit on a stick – and that encourage healthful eating build loyal customers. Parents are more likely to return if they know their children are happy, welcome and nourished.”

  • Focus on service. If you serve lots of families or plan to expand your market reach to them, remember that kids are customers too. In addition to having toys, games and other playthings, make sure you provide high chairs, booster seats and kid-friendly cups.

“Many families identify service as a leading factor of whether they’ll visit a restaurant,” says Ian Davidson, brand insight senior manager for C3, a family and kids marketing agency in Overland Park, Kansas.

  • Train staff on family-specific issues, such as seating and prompt service. For example, staff should know to prepare larger seating for families, Davidson says. And servers should learn to bring kids’ meals out quickly, even if parents’ meals aren’t ready, he says.
  • Know your guests. Make sure your greeter understands the difference between a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, says A.J. Mesalic, general manager of the Family Hospitality Group, a Las Vegas company that specializes in children’s premiums and entertainment.

“Hospitality speaks loudly about the brand,” he says. “Call kids by their names. Treat them as if they have some control over the order. Help parents manage their children by ensuring they have what they need to keep them occupied.”

How your restaurant treats families with children will influence brand perceptions. By tailoring your efforts to your younger customers you can develop brand loyalty and help drive a more profitable future.

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