Children’s concierge, healthy eating and kids activity packs: How to target the family market more effectively

Offering something specifically for children is a great way toget them used to the idea of eating out or staying in hotels

As an increasing number of hospitality businesses are redefining their children’s offerings in a bid to boost business, BigHospitality evaluates the effectiveness of the Children’s Concierge service at Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, a new healthy eating initiative at Hampton Court Palace, and a revamped kids offering at Wagamama, to find out the most effective ways of targeting the family market.

The ideas:

  • In February, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels launched a new ‘Ask Alfred’ Children’s Concierge service across its seven London properties. For £20 per child, the package offers a selection of their own in-room amenities including a complimentary Hamleys teddy bear, a bathrobe and slippers for the duration of the stay and ice cream on arrival.

The Children's Concierge package also includes a ‘survival guide’ book for parents, giving information on things to do with kids during their day, and nearby family-friendly restaurants they can eat at. The book has been translated into Chinese, Arabic and Russian.

  • In the same month, Hampton Court Palace launched the Very Hungry Caterpillar menu. Children who visit the hotel have access to a new range of healthy food and drink options in collaboration with The Very Hungry Caterpillar book.

Seasonal fruit pots, crudités and healthy snacks are all available on the new menu, along with sandwiches and a small treat selection which are made to have minimum impact on added sugar and excess fat. The menu encourages children themselves to choose from this healthy selection that they then store in Very Hungry Caterpillar branded boxes.

  • Then, in June, noodle chain Wagamama launched their brand new kids offering, with designs from independent arts and science children’s magazine, Okido.

Children dining at Wagamama now have access to activity packs featuring a newly designed character, Hoshi. The launch was supported by a redefined menu offering for kids, which now provides mini-sized portions of the restaurant’s main meals.The Okido-designed collateral was also extended to Wagamama’s popular school visits, in which children learn about how the Japanese-inspired dishes are made, orders are taken and the restaurants are run.

Why these promotions?

  • “About a year and a half ago, we did nothing for children,” said Nic Lander, Millennium & Copthorne’s head of concierge, who founded the Children’s Concierge service. “I was staying at one of our hotels with my three children and my wife said to me ‘you don’t do anything’, you don’t even provide crayons’.

“So we did a lot of research and we learnt from the mistakes of competitors. We’ve made sure we don’t deter our business guests with this - we also don’t want to have to provide bikes or DVDs, because parents usually travel with these things.”

  • Consultant nutritionist Amanda Ursell advised on the meal composition at Hampton Court Pallace for The Hungry Caterpillar menu. “I can say, hand on heart, I would be happy for my little ones to tuck into a Very Hungry Caterpillar lunchbox,” she said. 

“The selection of choices was carefully thought through to both appeal to children’s likes and parents desire for their offspring to eat food that is good for them."

  • Ingrid Williamson, head of marketing at Wagamama, added: “As the brand has started to expand, we felt that people didn’t necessarily perceive Wagamama as being welcoming to kids. We wanted to give it more of an identity and more of a presence.

“Okido treat children more like adults, which is the position that we wanted to take so it made the perfect partnership. We’ve always had a child’s menu but over the years we’ve evolved it into providing dishes for children that are reflective of the larger portions that their parents are having.”

How effective have they been?

  • "A minimum of £2 from each Children’s Concierge booking goes to our chosen charity, Rays of Sunshine,” added Lander. “We donated a cheque to them in February for £6,200 and we will be giving another donation at Christmas, so it’s been really successful.

"It has, without a doubt, led to a direct increase in bookings from families with children. We churn out up to 200 children at our Slough branch on a daily basis, which is a notable increase.

“It’s also made us more aware of what people want as a group. Having children in your hotel can be a health and safety nightmare, so we also ring-fenced all of our properties to make sure we had child-friendly sockets in the room, new cots that comply to various standards, children’s bedding, bottle warmers – everything that a child would need.”

  • Williamson from Wagamama added: “The partnership with Okido is absolutely working. With year-on-year sales, we’ve already seen an average of 30 and 50 per cent increase in kids menus being sold.”

“We would certainly recommend this sort of initiative as a way of boosting business.”

The experts’ view:

Caroline Cooper, founder of Zeal Coaching, which helps to give hospitality clients a ‘competitive edge’, said: “Offering something specifically for children is a great way to introduce them and get them used to the idea of eating out or staying in hotels – after all these are our customers of the future, so the sooner we get them into the concept the more likely they are to do this on a regular basis when they are footing the bill themselves.”

“I have to congratulate Hampton Court Palace on placing an emphasis on healthy eating. Most parents want their kids to eat healthily, but a lot of the kids too want something more than the ‘rubbish food’ (not my words, but those of a parent I was with this morning!) so often seen on the kids’ menu.

“A dish from the main menu might be too much. I still think there is a long way to go in offering child-sized portions on the main menu – depending on their age many children want to have access to the same offers as the grownups, and Wagamama are doing this really well.”

Words of caution…

“Being child friendly goes a lot further than just offering a kids’ menu,” added Cooper. “Firstly, you’ve got to consider the compatibility with other customers. We generally are not as tolerant in this country as for example Italy; so consider if you want to actively welcome children all day and evening, or certain times of the day.

“Then you’ve a very diverse range – babies in arms, toddlers and pre-school, juniors and teenagers - all having very different needs and expectations. As an example, if you want to attract young mums with their pre-school children, think about facilities and layout – is there room for the buggy next to the table, what about you acoustics, access to toilets, crockery and glassware?

“And above all you’ve got to have staff who love kids!”

Thinking about this sort of thing for your business?

Cooper concluded: “My final word on the subject would be - if you want to attract children, shout about it. Parents know they are going to be welcome at some of the high street chains and hotels, so they keep going back there. Let them know what the alternatives are.”

Related News

The Waldorf Hilton hotel has harked back to its English heritage with the launch of the Tango Supper.

Art exhibitions and dance classes: Using popular culture initiatives to stand out from the crowd

The Royal Horseguards Cocktail & Cake Liquid Afternoon Tea is set to launch to coincide with London Cocktail Week from 5 – 14 October

London Cocktail Week: Could offering bespoke cocktails maximise your drinks sales?

Pizza Express was awarded for its new Leggera pizza range earlier this year, but our restaurant chains doing enough?

Tackling obesity: Should restaurants be doing more?

Geronimo Inns created individual shrines and promised locals a free party if their adopted star grabbed a gold, silver or bronze

Olympic shrines, medal count boards and Going for Gold cocktails: Making the most of national events

The winners of The Morris Golden Keys Concierge Awards 2012 were named this week in a ceremony at the Banqueting House in Whitehall

InterContinental London Park Lane concierge scoops The Society of the Golden Keys Lifetime Achievement Award

Dukes St James London has launched the ‘Power Lunch’ menu at its recently launched restaurant Thirty Six By Nigel Mendham

Desk deliveries and power lunches: How to boost your lunchtime trade

Family Friendly: Restaurants have been urged to do more to offer healthy menu alternatives for kids

London restaurants urged to offer healthier kids meals

The new kids meals will be available in half of Fuller's pubs and will be served with interactive place-mats

Fuller’s launches healthier kids menu

The options offered to children in 21 restaurant chains are being investigated as part of a campaign by Organix and The Soil Association

Restaurants' children's menus get investigated for Soil Association and Organix campaign

Parents of pre-school children said they were more likely to visit a restaurant or pub if it had a menu for children, offered entertainment for them and had high chairs

Parents of pre-schoolers say restaurants, pubs and cafes are failing to cater for children

Consumers are increasingly looking for environmentally-friendly hotels and guest houses

Energy reduction programmes and electric vehicle charging points: Using eco-friendly initiatives to boost business

Antonio Carluccio and six members of his team took part in a 500-mile charity bike ride in July in aid of Action Against Hunger

Menu donations and fundraising initiatives: How to work with charities

The Gun offers a free taxi service for customers based in Canary Wharf or the Isle of Dogs who want to have lunch there

Catch a taxi to The Gun for free: using joint venture partnerships to boost lunchtime trade

Beefeater's new Reward Card was launched earlier this year with the intention of building repeat visits in its 130 restaurants

The Reward Club at Beefeater: The effectiveness of a loyalty scheme vs. discounting

Hotel du Vin Poole has launched 'the art of mushrooming' guest package

The art of mushrooming at Hotel du Vin and DJ nights at Aloft

Zizzi and Gizzi Erskine will create a three-course Autumn menu for The Prince's Trust

Charity menu at Zizzi and Flower Show Afternoon Tea at Hilton Park Lane

Park Plaza on the River is offering special Diamond Jubilee packages in their five-star suites overlooking the Thames

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Special: What's your business doing?

Submit a comment

Your comment has been saved

Post a comment

Please note that any information that you supply is protected by our Privacy and Cookie Policy. Access to all documents and request for further information are available to all users at no costs, In order to provide you with this free service, William Reed Business Media SAS does share your information with companies that have content on this site. When you access a document or request further information from this site, your information maybe shared with the owners of that document or information.