With the kids off school for Easter, families will be out and about all over Gloucestershire, looking for fantastic, family-friendly places to eat, shop and visit.
SoGlos spoke to Visit Gloucestershire to get its expert advice on how businesses can make themselves as family-friendly as possible, with some top tips on how to encourage families to visit during the Easter holidays, too.
About the expert – Steve Gardner-Collins from Visit Gloucestershire
Steve Gardner-Collins is the director of Visit Gloucestershire – a non-competitive platform for hospitality and visitor economy businesses to share ideas, find resources and work together.
Visit Gloucestershire’s mission is to create a responsible and sustainable tourism industry for the county, showcasing everything Gloucestershire has to offer for people who live, work and holiday here.
What attracts families to Gloucestershire’s hospitality businesses during the Easter holidays?
The beauty of Gloucestershire is its rural, family-friendly setting. We have a wonderful mix of family-friendly attractions offering kids entertainment this Easter, all over the county, whether its farm parks, castles, indoor and outdoor.
You can pick up lots of ideas from SoGlos’s Gloucestershire Easter guide
How can Gloucestershire’s independent businesses encourage visiting families to spend with them, rather than big chains or familiar names?
Throughout the pandemic, we have been encouraging the people of Gloucestershire to think local – and we continue that theme in 2022 for the start of spring. Just like our locals are thinking local, we want visitors to have that local focus too, considering all the wonderful independent shops and cafés, restaurants and hotels we have in the county.
They can be difficult to identify outside of the usual Costa and McDonalds – as they have the brand powers behind them – but exploring and planning before your day out can be the best way to prepare. SoGlos also offers a great guide on all things independent in its hot list of 40 incredible independent Gloucestershire businesses.
What can local businesses do to make themselves more family-friendly?
Be flexible, kids have it rough as much as adults and last-minute anxieties and problems do happen. No business wants cancellations, but being flexible and mindful of running late – it comes with the territory.
Kids’ menus, healthy food options, private spaces, inclusion and access is all part of making your venue attractive. If you bring more drama to an already dramatic scenario, you’ll probably not get the business.
If restaurants or cafés can’t offer a dedicated children’s menu or activities, for example, what other things can they do to accommodate people dining with children?
Keeping the kids fuller for longer is the best-case scenario for parents. A good mix of protein, veg and carbs – without the usual chips with everything, as they don’t fill the kids up for long and they are soon hungry.
Parents are really trying to think of lots of colour on plates, balanced diets. There is room for fun, but when too many E numbers and sugar rushes result in kids running around your venues, it’s not entirely the parents’ fault if the only options are sugar and chips!
How can businesses show potential customers that they welcome babies, children and families before they visit?
Make the experience fun – and also for kids getting older, upgrades to portion sizes, alongside smaller portions for tiny tummies is all part of the fun when sitting down and deciding who wants what. You really want the right mix of balance – nutrition and fun.
During the holidays in particular, go for simple, affordable and colourful. It’s Easter – think about some entertainment – this usually brings enough distraction for service delays during busy times and keeps the kids quiet for other diners.
If you have a play area, you have a bonus over your competition – parents are looking for a break and time to enjoy their food as well. Letting the kids go off and play gives everyone a chance to breathe and enjoy themselves. Activity packs with colouring in are all good winners, too.
Don’t forget the basics – highchairs, changing stations, bibs and cups with lids all mean time saved on cleaning up.
Staff training is key, too. Friendly service is a major draw for young families with children. Since kids can be challenging customers, it’s important that your staff members are trained in serving families and know how to make them feel comfortable and welcome.
You might talk with staff about seating families at larger tables with plenty of room around them, so they can easily use highchairs and have space for buggies. Also, encourage staff to be patient with families and supportive of parents as much as possible. Waitstaff should treat tiny customers as they would adults — with respect and consideration. However, they should also consider the parents’ wishes.
How effective are things like set menus for special occasions like Easter? Is it a good strategy to attract families in?
Variety is the spice of life and these days, we are all looking for something different, whether that’s those with dietary requirements or fussy kids. We don’t want to pigeonhole choices, so whilst a set menu is good for Sunday roasts, outside of that, flexible dining options are better; even if your restaurant has a cuisine and food style, choice is certainly an easier experience when taking the kids out.
What can businesses do to cope with additional demand during the Easter holidays? Are there still staffing pressures to be overcome – and how can businesses do this?
There is no doubt that staff shortages continue and with demands of school holidays and hopefully sunny weather, everyone should really plan ahead. Book online, take table friendly toys and activities to keep little ones entertained.
Let’s not forget, for hospitality businesses, the more they do, the more it costs to deliver, which could have an impact on menu prices – so there is a role for parents to play when planning a trip out for food and drinks.
But if the kids like your food, they will go on and on and on about going back – which is a big win for families and businesses.