Wednesday, 21 August 2013

With the peak summer holiday season now firmly upon us...Fuller's Tenants Extra August 2013

With the peak summer holiday season now firmly upon us, many pubs will currently be seeing an upturn in family business. Like most parents, I’m always right behind any suggestion that pubs should do more to make themselves family-friendly, although I also recognise just how far the trade has come in a short time.

For several years, either side of the turn of the century, I regularly judged the Family Pub of the Year category in a national industry awards. There were so few pubs that genuinely had a credible family offer, that the same few businesses tended to get shortlisted year after year. After one seaside pub won three years running, we had to politely ask them to stop entering and give someone else a chance.

The market has moved on, partly because of changes to licensing laws which have made the regulations on allowing children into pubs clearer, but also because family trade is and important revenue stream for many businesses. From children’s birthday parties after school, to Sunday lunch attended by three or more generations, family occasions can make an important contribution to a pub’s food turnover.

So, I was interested to read a new survey by leisure industry researcher Canadean which suggested that pubs need to be offering good value to families this summer. The cost of extra treats, as well as food and drink when eating out, is a concern for parents, with 60% planning to look for special offers and discounts.

Where I do part company with the family pub evangelists is when they criticise typical children’s pub food. Sausages, fish fingers and, of course, chicken nuggets are all too often dismissed as the root of all that’s wrong with children’s menus. To which my response is that those making the criticisms either don’t have children or if they have, they’ve certainly never taken them out to eat.

Much as we’d all like our kids to eat a little more healthily, a family meal out isn’t the occasion to try and force them to consider the merits of chickpeas over chips. Equally, if the fish fingers and chicken nuggets are sourced with the same attention to quality as the rest of the menu, they’re fine as part of a balanced meal.

To keep families happy and well fed this summer, try the following ideas:
  •  Advertise value – promote fixed price kids’ meals via the internet and exterior boards and posters 
  • Let them chose – carvery and buffet menus allow children to pick the food they like without having to make a fuss
  •  Side orders – have a choice of sides dishes such as peas, carrot sticks and baked beans that kids can chose for them
  • Make a meal – for parties, allow groups of children to make their own pizzas or wraps with a choice of topping and fillings
  • Fruit fun - offer fresh fruit or fruit salad as a dessert option  
This Kitchen Porter column appears in the August 2013 issue of Fuller's Tenants Extra

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