And the kids came too: shops and cafes fail to impress parents

Supermarkets and fast food chains win hands down when it comes to easiest places to shop and eat with pre-schoolers.

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Research recently released by global market research company GMI reveals the differences in how parents of pre-school children believe the high street in Britain is failing them.

Supermarket sweep for family friendly shopping

60% of parents of young children agree that shops are not doing enough to make the shopping experience family friendly.

Eight in ten parents (81%) said supermarkets are the easiest type of shop to visit with young children. Other shops scored far lower with toy shops coming second, almost 50 percentage points behind. Parents look for shops offering baby changing facilities (74%), toilet facilities (72%), larger parking spaces (72%), trolleys with child seats (71%), and child friendly staff (57%).

Parents say fast food restaurants are most suited to families

Perhaps it’s a surprise that on a weekly basis, British parents eat out more frequently with their young children (23%) than French (9%) or German (12%) parents.

Almost two thirds (64%) of British parents eat out in fast food restaurants with their young children, and two thirds of those said they suit their needs (42%). Next for meeting their needs are chain restaurants, such as Pizza Express (21%) and supermarket cafes (13%).

Coffee shops, cafes and pubs need to do more for families

Although half (50%) of parents take their children to coffee shops in Britain, only 7% feel they suit their needs. It’s a similar story for pubs: 44% take their children to eat in pubs, only 12% say they are convenient for pre-school kids.

Coffee shops, cafes and restaurants that don’t offer facilities for families with young children risk missing out on business. In this survey, the majority of parents (59%) told us they have taken their pre-school age children to a restaurant specifically because of the family friendly facilities it provides.

So how should our coffee shops, cafes and restaurants adapt to be more family friendly? Parents have simple needs. Their top five requests are:

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1. A special children’s menu (84%)

2. Children’s entertainment i.e. crayons and colouring book at the table (79%)

3. High chairs or booster seats (74%)

4. Baby changing facilities (71%)

5. Child friendly staff (70%).

As it seems, parents of pre-school children feel that the British high street could do better at catering for their needs. This could be a real opportunity for venues across Britain to make simple changes, from training staff to be more child-friendly to adding new offers and facilities to encourage families to shop and eat out more together. And the changes would not imply big investment for small business owners. In fact, in restaurants or family-friendly pubs special menus and some form of entertainment were the top two options parents look for.

With so many initiatives focused on making the high street more attractive and profitable especially in the lead up to Christmas, a time when families spend more than during the rest of the year, it’s a reminder that some simple changes could make a big difference to parents.

The survey was run in July 2013 on GMI’s online panel in three markets, the UK, France and Germany. In the UK there were 1005 respondents, all of whom had at least one child of pre-school age. In France there were 1001 respondents, and in Germany 1000.

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