I am the father of a two year old. This isn’t a surprise to me. I was fully involved in the process and spend every day with my son.
Yet, sometimes, when I go out for meal, I do find myself surprised. I am surprised that I haven’t fully considered Teddy’s needs nor ours, when choosing a location. I am also surprised when places don’t cater to him, or us, as much as I’d expect.
What this means is that what I am looking for in a restaurant or cafe has changed. Somewhat. The realisation might not have been immediate, but it’s crystal clear now.
And what does a good restaurant for a toddler look like?
Well, it’s not rocket science, but it is something some places get right, where others don’t, or can’t.
We need space:
We’ve probably got a pram, we’ll definitely need a high chair, and we’ll also have a bag of nappies and other paraphernalia, as well as a smorgasbord of Teddy’s current favourite toys. This usually includes a car, but can also include an ipad and headphones.
We need patience:
Two year old’s aren’t always quiet. They like attention and don’t like being asked to stay in one place for too long. This means they might remind us they’re there and need entertained. The best venues don’t mind this, and reassure you of this. The worst avoid eye contact so you don’t see their awkward contempt.
We need support:
This can range from bringing an extra plate or colouring books and crayons. It can also mean recognising when Teddy needs an extra drink or a little attention from a passing member of staff. It can also mean knowing that a two year old might not want or need a £9 kids meal, but will be happy with a few scraps from daddy’s plate and a scoop of ice cream to wash it all down.
And that’s about it.
The trouble is, that in the current financial climate, where restaurants like each of us, are feeling the pinch, all of these things hit the bottom line. You need more, well trained staff, you need fewer tables and plenty of child seats, and you lose out if you’re not charging each cover enough.
I think there is a pay-off though. A quid-pro-quo, if you will. If you go somewhere that seems unwelcoming, you won’t stay long. You won’t have that extra drink or dessert course. You probably won’t tip as well.
But if you go somewhere great, you’ll do all of the above. You’ll stay longer and spend more. And you’ll return and tell others to do the same. Even in the prosperous times, repeat custom and word of mouth marketing are important, but now they’re absolutely essential.