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What are the little things that make a big difference on a family day out/ holiday/ meal(66 Posts)
I've been asked to speak at the British Hospitality Association conference next week, where there will be top folks from restaurants and cafes, hotels and travel and theme parks/ attractions and I'd love to know from you what are the little things that make a big difference to your enjoyment of a family day out/meal out/ family holiday or hotel? What makes a place feel welcoming to families, what makes you want to go back? Who is getting it right do you think and why? And what could they do a lot better (apart from making it all much cheaper!). I can't promise to fit everything in but think it's a great opportunity to let them know what we think.
They are also talking about whether you would encourage your child to take a job in the hospitality industry (or would take one yourself) and if not why not? So any thoughts on that also welcome.
Thanks so much as always.
Welcoming for me is clean, properly, family-friendly clean e.g. clean high chairs, not grimy straps and old food encrusted in the corners, something for the children to do when they're there, a children's menu that has more than just chicken nuggets and chips.
Good quality, preferably home made, food rather than just beige and chips
Real butter by default, never spread.
If serving a cream tea, scone must be fresh, home made and not refridgerated. Only clotted cream, never whipped or squirty
Tea to be served in teapots not bag floating in a mug
Free tap water, openly available (eg water fountains, jugs)
Variety of portion sizes to accomodate different appetites
Maybe something about controlling table allocation at busy times, so you don't have loads of people saving tables with no food and others stood around with trays of food but with nowhere to sit.
M&S cafe (some of them at least) have a staff member to stop people saving tables and helping people who already have their food to find a table, but unfortunately for them, their cafe counter service is so glacially slow, that I try to avoid them now anyway.
It would be nice if the toilet cubicles were big enough for parents of both sexes to fit pushchairs and other small children in with them. Hooks and shelves.
Regular actual cleaning, not a quick look-see and sign the chit on the door.
Low basins and soaps.
(I'm not even a mum, but I have seen good family-friendly loos!)
Proper food on children's menus - a pub near us just does mini portions of a selection of the main dishes rather than a separate menu of microwaved crap.
Clean high chairs.
Colouring sheets are always popular, and children entertained that way encourages use to stay for coffee and puddings! Children's puddings that aren't "ice cream or chocolate brownie".
-Somewhere to park your pushchair
-food brought quickly for young kids - carluccios are great at this, they have breadsticks as part of their children's menu and always bring a small pot of breadsticks along with the children's menu (the menu also contains pencils and colouring)
- children's cutlery for babies / toddlers
- help carrying a high chair when you arrive
- the bill brought quickly!
I used to go to a place that had a teeny spot in the corner, with toys for the kids. They weren't expensive toys, think most of them were second hand, but it made it so much easier to get a coffee or a meal. (The Sleepless Goat, Kingston, Ontario if you're interested.). Also, their coffee was lovely.
For hotels, nice biscuits, ie shortbread or Border biscuits or similar quality brand, not standard custard creams, digestives etc.
Plenty of tea bags and fresh milk in the room if possible if the room had a small fridge, that 'tastes like fresh' milk is ok-ish, but never UHT.
For hotel breakfasts, good jam, ie home made or little glass jars not plastic packets. Butter that has been out of the fridge so spreadable.
Get rid of all the excessive cushions and decorative crap on beds and I really don't know why they make hotel beds the way they do, it takes ages to put it into a state where you can actually get in it to sleep in.
One thing I liked at a Hallmark Hotel I stayed in recently is that if you stayed for more than one night, they gave you the option of free drink in the bar as an alternative to having the room made up each day. It saved them the cost of housekeeping/washing towels etc.
TBH, I'd rather not have my room made up as I don't think it is necessary and it means I have to undo what they've done to the bed every day, which is a pain. And the alternative of free booze is always good.
Think most of what I would want has already been mentioned, namely:
Proper food on the children's menu - my little boy won't eat beige and chips!
Everything done as quickly as possible - order taken, food brought, bill brought across, payment taken.
Nibbles whilst you're waiting for the food - this has been a lifesaver for us before. Literally stopped us getting up and walking out.
Plastic plates/cutlery/cups for the little ones - I don't want to spend half my meal wondering if the plate is going to break or he's going to have his eye out with the fork!
Freely available water
In theme parks etc, definitely cubicles that are big enough to take in the pram, and ones with specially adapted toilets/basins for little ones. If potties/toilet seats are available, they should be properly washed. I've seen ones with grime crusted on - nobody wants to sit their child on that!
Another one in toilets - free nappy bags! The amount of times we've had a disaster and I've only had the spare nappy and wipes I keep in my handbag, but no nappy bag to put the dirty stuff in. I don't like putting poopy nappies straight into the bin!
On holiday, free cots, highchairs, having baby gates available. I've specifically chosen resorts on this basis. Why are parents penalised for needing somewhere for their baby to sleep/sit? There are no supplements for a bed or a sofa!
The best welcomes we've had as a family have been from smaller businesses, where they can put the extra effort in.
With regards to a job in the industry, I suppose it would depend at what level. I would not discourage them from taking on a summer job, but I would not be encouraging them towards a career in hospitality - I've always felt it is under paid, unsociable hours and not conducive to family life unless you are senior management and can dictate your own hours. Anyone further down is expected to drop everything, including holidays, if there is a staffing issue. And this happens on a disproportionate level to other industries.
Slightly.larger tables so that glasses/knives can be put out of reach..
The option for meals to be served when they are ready e.g. toddler main to be served with adult starters.
Children' meals not having a default.of ice cream.
Children's meals being served on cool.plates at an edible temperature with child sized cutlery.
Waiting staff who interact with children - dd is 2.5 and staff are always shocked that she asks for what she would like
For us is room to park our pushchairs. We love places with outside space for bored toddlers to have a run and activity packs with stickers.
I have worked in the hospitality sector and it was awfully paid but fun, so would encourage my child to do it when young, alongside study or other work or to save for travelling. I learned a lot about peop,e and work ethic that was valuable.
Agree with most of this but most definitely not scalding hot food. Worst meal of my life was DS2 crying with hunger as I tried to cool down a lasagne that had apparently been heated on the surface of the sun!!
The big problem we always have is knowing whether a pub/restaurant etc is family friendly. It's OK when we're in a familiar place but when on holiday it can be hard to know whether children are welcome or not. We've experienced walking into a pub only to have a barman bark at us to get out.
So something as simple as signs outside saying 'Families welcome' or 'Children's Menu' is really helpful.
Re hospitality careers, tbh no I wouldn't encourage my dc to pursue that. I've never worked in the industry but my impression is that it's hard work and long hours for low pay. I don't know if that's accurate but it's my first thought.
Baby change facilities that aren't only in the women's loos. Pisses me right off that DH can't do a nappy change when we're out because the facilities aren't unisex. Not that we're doing nappies any more, but still.
For my family- really clear, reliable and easy to understand allergy menus with decent dairy and egg free options.
We are a family of 6, one child has severe allergies. We eat out regularly but only frequent a handful of places because so many others don't cater well enough for the child with allergies. TGI Fridays and Zizzi's get a big thumbs up from us, and Harvester have recently massively improved their menu allergies -wise.
But given the growing number of children with allergies, restaurants need to get much much better at catering for them.
Oooh and a big mention for Wildwood too. Sadly only one "safe" choice on their menu, but we love their children's play room which means the children are happily entertained until their food is ready.
And forgot to say - a big plea to all "family" restaurants to provide more than just jelly/an ice lolly as their dairy free pudding. It can't be that hard to have a tub of coconut or soya based ice cream in the freezer? Some of the cafes local to us manage this, so surely the big chains can?
I have a teenage DS who is nearly 17. He would like to see facilities for teens available in hotels or at holiday parks - like rental of games consoles, or somewhere that teens can hang out that is not aimed at children but not full of disapproving glares from adults. The hospitality industry doesn't seem to target teenagers who holiday, as kids clubs are aimed at much smaller children and from about 14 onwards there are often few things for them to do.
Larger tables that you can get everything on without the fear of knocking things over
No butter in little packets
No sachets of bloody sauces
Sufficient lighting to read the menu but not bright enough to highlight your facial hair
People who are trained properly not just students filling in
People who know what they are serving and what's in the food they are serving , garlic , cooked in sesame oil , nuts etc
Linen napkins in restaurants
That the loos are clean , well stocked , smell fresh and checked regularly
That staff don't stand around chatting to each other for ages
Decent allergen menu, which lists allergens but also ensures that there are available options that free from those allergens. The number of places with no dairy free options is shocking. Or places that have gluten free options and dairy free options, but nothing gluten free and dairy free (many coeliacs also react to dairy).
Staff (chefs and wait people) who are properly trained re food allergy safety/awareness.
Pizza Express does these very well.
More generally, just decent quality, fresh food.
Seconding more dairy-free dessert options.
I love restaurants that offer different potion sizes in their children's menus. Places like TGI Fridays and Zizzis do meals for little ones and then bigger sizes for older children. I think this is great because what a 3 year old eats is different to a 9 year old.
Colouring sheets are always a plus as well as clean high chairs. Also I would like to see children's cutlery.
I would like to see variety in children's menus, not just chicken and chips all the time.
Lots of things I'd want have already been mentioned but a big one for me is a recognition that when we ask for the bill it's because our 3 year old and her one year old brother have reached the tolerance for the length of time they can sit still. Please just take our money! Take it! We want to give it to you and you have your table back for more paying customers. The amount of times we can wait ages for someone to turn up with a card machine is often getting on for as much again as we've waited for food.
We recently went to Wahaca. Not only was their children's menu brilliant, but they gave us a table number when they delivered the mains and told us if we wanted to we could pay on the app and leave when we wanted.
I practically tap danced out of the restaurant. It's such a small thing but it made such a difference to the end of our dining experience.
High chairs, preferably ikea antiliop. They are so much better and I actually feel like my 8 mth old is safe in one.
A decent children's menu including something like breadsticks along with colouring when they arrive.
A place to store a buggy.
An area for young children to play. E.g. A table with a train track on.
Staff that interact with my children. Sainsbury's cafe are brilliant at that!
Someone to help carry trays to a table.
Detailed info about allergens. Nando's are brilliant but are the only ones I've found who can literally tell you exactly what's in each dish.
Counter service can be so slow and it's hard to keep children occupied in the queue. Hot drinks made separately and brought to the table would seriously save time
And I agree about waiting ages to pay when children have had enough! Pizza express are awful at this