Pace and family dining


Pace and family dining

Crayons and colouring book

For families, pace of service can make or break guest experience. At HGEM we know this from experience and years’ worth of mystery guest feedback. The majority of guests (63%) tell us they would appreciate restaurants to adopt a more flexible and responsive approach to their pace of service.

A warm welcome, including the provision of positive distractions for children such as stickers or crayons and paper is always a great way to start off on a positive tip, and will instantly set family visitors at ease. In HGEM research, 16% of guests say that when front of house staff engage with their children, it significantly improves their guest experience. Waiting for food is a lot less stressful when children are happily distracted and feel attended to by staff. This buys staff and guests extra time before getting an order in, reducing tension all round. It also sends a signal that staff are aware of the reality of eating out with small children and that they’re welcoming to children and sensitive to their needs.

Anything staff can do to preempt family guests’ needs keeps the pace moving and ensures families feel looked after rather than forgotten. There are a number of simple ways that pace of service can easily be used to demonstrate staff’s attentiveness to customers in this demographic. Taking children’s orders first and serving their food before the adult food arrives (or at least at the same time), is an easy win, but often this doesn’t happen. Ensuring the children’s menu is packed with dishes that are quick to prepare is one way to help make attending to them first as easy as possible.

With families spending more of their income than ever before on hospitality (up £1.80 a week from last year to over £45 now, according to a recent survey), hospitality providers, particularly in the casual dining sector, are waking up to how every aspect of their customer service could be improved to better meet the needs of this increasingly lucrative corner of the market. Clearly, there is more room for improvement, however, with HGEM research finding that a staggering 72% of guests feel that pubs, in particular, could do more to cater for families.

Some operators – the likes of Giraffe, wagamama and Jamie’s Italian – set the bar pretty high. Pace of service for family diners is as a general rule swift and attentive; there’s a sense that these chains really ‘get it,’ as far as family dining is concerned. For those who don’t, it makes commercial sense to wise up. Anywhere with a relaxed atmosphere and reasonable price point needs to welcome families and be willing to adjust their pace to accommodate them.

Flexibility is key when it comes to pitching pace right with families. Front of house staff who seize the initiative on this fare well in HGEM’s guest feedback. Reading the slightly restless atmosphere of a party expertly, noting that children are becoming fidgety and suggesting a takeaway ice-cream for pudding instead of expecting guests to sit and wait for their dessert, is an example of a simple, thoughtful suggestion that is likely to be welcome. Adjusting the pace of a meal proactively in this way helps guests to avoid what might have been an unnecessarily stressful end to a meal.

Warmth and staff who are one step ahead are more important than formal by-the-book steps of service when it comes to catering for families. Being prepared to bend the rules and adjust the pace marks hospitality providers out as attuned to family guests’ needs. Hopefully this more flexible approach will become the norm in the future.

Back to Blog