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Demand for 'family only' cafe/restaurant

(23 Posts)
ameloriate Mon 30-Nov-15 09:36:20

I'm at the very start, really, of considering opening a business in the seaside town of Weston-super-Mare and have two questions you may be able to help me with.

The basic premise is opening a very family friendly cafe / restaurant. I'm thinking a main area with a sectioned off area for under 5's (or maybe two, depending on space, one for under 2's another for 3-5), a separate comfy quiet room for breastfeeding/ reading/ somewhere for parents to chill while baby naps. I imagine offering after school deals for older children and to have activities available for for them. Maybe even a separate room for junior school age children. I imagine groups coming in (library storytelling sessions, breastfeeding peer support, small theatre shows etc).
In the evenings just on certain days, I'm contemplating a restaurant atmosphere where we can offer relatively fine dining, with a babysitting service upstairs, so parents don't have to leave their children to enjoy time together.
On Sunday's I'm imagining recreating a homely atmosphere where families can enjoy a Sunday lunch while the kids eat and play rather than get moaned at for not sitting still at a table.

1) Does anyone have any tips on the best way to research demand for this kind of venue?
2) Does anyone want to tell me their thoughts on this idea?

angryangryyoungwoman Mon 30-Nov-15 09:42:29

I like the idea and live nearby so I would support it smile

Chillyegg Mon 30-Nov-15 09:50:46

I'd take my child but along if there was a variety of food aside from the usual kiddy food sold in places like this.
But I live 100's of miles from Western super mare

bakingaddict Mon 30-Nov-15 09:53:44

The thing for me would be wariness about creating a solely family friendly cafe and alienating other potential customers. You might put off day-trippers and pensioners who want somewhere nice to eat. I would keep the cafe with appeal to all such as enough space between tables to park a buggy which was my bug-bear when the kids were younger, decent kids menu and creating a relaxed atmosphere

You have to decide whether you are a business or a community centre, some of your other ideas sound good on paper but I feel would fail to generate sufficient takings. Your goal should be to get people in and out and spending money on your food, you won't do that with sessions aimed at junior school kids and breastfeeding support groups but I may be wrong and if you do sufficient market research then you'll know if this area warrants something like that

RunRabbitRunRabbit Mon 30-Nov-15 09:58:02

Visiting other successful cafes like yours and speaking to the owners would be my first move. I know of a few round London for example, www.cafemakebelieve.com/

I wanted to give you the links to a couple of others but they have closed down. Telling?

The play area for pre-schoolers is a nice idea. I used to go to places like that with mates when DC were tiny. Unfortunately the premises were often cramped, no space for multiple buggies, too few tables. We only went there on rainy days. We mostly met up in parks for toddlers, coffee shops for babies, soft play / farm park for 3-8 ish age range.

The place for adults to chill children while baby naps (presumably in a pram) is well provided for elsewhere: personally the last place I wanted to be when DC napped was a baby cafe, I'd much rather be in Cafe Nero or a bookshop or at home.

Evening babysitter upstairs is bonkers! Why would anyone use that? If the children are under 10 they'll have bed time somewhere between 7pm and 9pm and are unlikely to settle in a different place so your service would be useless. Older ones, well, babysitter or leave them on their own. What's wrong with hiring a babysitter to come to your house like normal anyway? That's much more convenient for everyone. Also, I don't want fine dining in a baby cafe: that would be deeply depressing to me. How many different chefs and menus and table arrangements etc would you need for that anyway?

Sunday lunch sounds like what a local pub here does - they have a big play area outside. Very popular. We go there a lot for Sunday lunch, especially with other families. Excellent for big groups: adults chat over a leisurely lunch while children play happily.

Aliceinwonderlust Mon 30-Nov-15 09:58:27

The immediate issue for me would be you're attracting a low spending sector- people who nurse a coffee or two for hours whilst chatting. It sounds lovely and convienent but you'll need quite a high turnover of customers to pay for it.

WorraLiberty Mon 30-Nov-15 10:00:12

I'm guessing you'll have to charge an awful lot for the food and drinks, to cover the cost of all that.

Presumably you'll have to have adults in charge of the play areas, and the separate room for juniors, as the parents can't be in two places at once.

The parents chilling out and reading while their babies nap, may end up buying just a cup of coffee and using the room for a couple of hours.

Who will foot the bill for the theatre shows?

It sounds like a wonderful idea, but I'm not sure it's financially viable.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Mon 30-Nov-15 10:05:21

It sounds like quite a limited market to me, if it's only aimed at families with primary age and below children, mine are 9 and 11 and I don't think I'd have used this since they were much younger, say about 6 and 8. Also splitting into rooms for age groups makes it complicated for families with more than one child. And the after school market is probably quite limited by parents working and existing extra-curricular activities.

mouldycheesefan Mon 30-Nov-15 10:07:38

sounds lovely but more like a community centre than a business that will be a viable source of income for you. You will no doubt be very popular for parent meet ups but this parents only have a coffee or maybe a piece of cake. They bring own food for toddlers and go home for lunch. Your average spend will be £2 or whatever the price of a coffee is. You could have 100 people a day through the door and only turnover £200.
Don't think the turning it into a fine dining restaurant in the evening will work unfortunately as its a different market and they won't want to eat dinner in a kiddo cafe. Also most chefs need to do lunch and dinner service to earn enough or Turn a profit.

As you are in the south west you are no doubt familiar with the Lounge group of restaurants, they do all day from 9am to 11pm and attract families in the day and diners at night, visit some of their places for research.

EdithWeston Mon 30-Nov-15 10:07:38

The cafe near here that did a version of this went bust. It was conspicuously child-friendly, had a play area with toys etc and quite a good amount of space. They found (the hard way) that parents just didn't spend enough for the time they occupied the tables, and they attracted next to no other passing trade.

You seem to be adding a function room, and a I have no idea if the rental for that would be enough to balance the books.

I doubt the idea of a babysitter would appeal to many people beyond the early breastfeeding stages, when having someone to hold your baby so you can eat with both hands (but you only have to nip upstairs if your boobs are required) might be a pleasant change. But I'd have thought that most people, would prefer a sitter at home. And if this counts as a crèche, then there's quite a lot of regulation standards you'll need to meet.

OneofTHOSEWomen Mon 30-Nov-15 10:11:30

Look up the Hungry Caterpiller Cafe and BubbaHub in Bristol. These are two places I visited often when DCs were younger that are essentially baby and toddler cafes. I've been to Weston a few times with young DCs but don't remember anything like this or as you describe above, probably a gap in the market!

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Mon 30-Nov-15 10:11:43

Yes, good point about the evening babysitting, when you've had a relaxed fine dining meal you want to go home to children tucked up in bed, not be getting overstimulated children back in the car where they might fall asleep, then home, bedtime routine etc. A lot of it does sound lovely but I totally agree that most of your customers would probably spend max of a fiver in a two hour visit.

PurpleDaisies Mon 30-Nov-15 10:17:15

It sound like you have loads of ideas, but realistically achieving all of those different aims sounds next to impossible. Most successful cafes are just cafes, not evening restaurants and Sunday lunch providers as well. It would be much better to concentrate on being a really good cafe (at least to start with) and see how that goes.

WorraLiberty Mon 30-Nov-15 10:19:20

I agree with mouldy

It does sound like a community centre.

wannaBe Mon 30-Nov-15 10:33:11

far too many ideas for it to be one concept. Plus the amount of space required would mean you'd need a huge mark-up on your food/drink in order to even cover your cost.

In general though my thoughts are:

play area for preschoolers: good idea but you'll need to define what you consider a play area. Do you want somewhere they can run around? in which case you need adequate amounts of space (and watertight public liability insurance) or just an area with toys etc on a table they can play with?

separate area for parents to read/chill while baby naps most parents would prefer to stay home while baby naps if they want to read/chill do their own thing. It's unlikely that parents of babies would pop into the quiet room in the cafe for baby's nap as opposed to going home.

separate rooms for junior school children plus storytelling/breastfeeding peer support most school children just want to go home in the afternoons or have other after school activities. Storytelling sessions are usually offered by local libraries, and breastfeeding peer support groups are the kind of thing you'd expect in your local children's centre not the cafe.

fine dining in the evenings no people just won't go to a restaurant which combines as a baby cafe during the day. And a babysitter upstairs wouldn't IMO give parents the feeling of being able to eat undisturbed, if babies are being looked after by a babysitter upstairs the parents would still be called on if baby wakes, which is something which wouldn't happen if they hire a babysitter at home.

Sunday lunch atmosphere has all the hallmarks of a pub.

Tbh I would find one of those ideas and work on that, but all together your cafe would be one of those places which didn't really have an identity. IMO.

babybarrister Tue 26-Jan-16 12:01:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PatriciaHolm Wed 27-Jan-16 10:41:22

Babybarrister - coffee & crayons?

I'd echo what previous posters have said; these kinds of places really really struggle as your demographic don't spend enough each visit, and take up a lot of space, as well as deterring other higher spending customers from coming in.

MumOnTheRunCatchingUp Wed 27-Jan-16 10:52:00

No. I wouldn't just aim this at families. You'll make next to no money at all.

TooMuchOfEverything Wed 27-Jan-16 10:56:36

We had a couple in our town but they shut down. I have been to Weston super mare and its a similar sort of town to where I live. People just haven't got the time or money to make this sort of place work sadly.

usual Wed 27-Jan-16 11:02:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

babybarrister Wed 27-Jan-16 11:04:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

happystory Wed 27-Jan-16 11:10:17

I think it's an idea that could work but needs more thought. There's a cafe near us that advertises itself as a family cafe. Not as extensive as you are planning but a large area with toys, high chairs, space for buggies etc. It's well used by people with small children and babies during the week. But- I don't know if it was just their particular acoustics but it was very noisy. A friend and I went for coffee (no kids) and could hardly hear ourselves think so wouldn't go again. One problem was people were just letting their kids run amok which is fine, it's a play area but they were a bit wild!!

DrGoogleWillSeeYouNow Wed 27-Jan-16 11:10:59

It's a sweet enough idea, but have you got to the stage of sitting down with a pen, paper and calculator yet?

Running over some very rough figures based on rent and rates in my area up north (cheap), overheads, costs of qualified staff for 'babysitting', insurance, etc, without even taking into account the start up cost of kitting out such a place (I'm guessing minimum 15k), you'll need to be making a minimum of about £60 an hour for at least 56 hours a week. That's £3360 a week then start taking off your costs. Doesn't leave much and that's before you draw a penny of your own salary.

If you're going to go for family friendly then you might as well go all out and start a soft play centre, where at least you can put a time limit on the visit and won't have mums nursing their 1 coffee or cup of boiled water for three hours. You want fixed minimum cost/high turnover.

I have a DS aged 12, I wouldn't set foot in the type of cafe/restaurant you're talking about, neither would my parents, neither would my nan and grandad.

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