Research identifies how food outlets can better cater to families

Friday, 18 March 2016

Food outlet

Brookes researchers have worked together with colleagues in Australia on a study tapping into the hospitality sector to shed light on the best ways to ensure an exceptional experience for families at food outlets.

The study titled: The hospitality consumption experiences of parents and carers with children: A qualitative study of foodservice settings is published in the April issue of the prestigious International Journal of Hospitality Management.

Researchers from the Oxford School of Hospitality Management at Oxford Brookes University carried out the study in collaboration with the University of Queensland.

Families are an important segment of the hospitality and tourism market. It has been suggested that in the UK alone, family dining out comprises of 3.18 billion visits worth £16.1 billion to the foodservice sector (NDP, 2014). Food outlets, like restaurants and cafes, are recognised as important sites where family leisure and parenting take place, but little is known about their experiences in venues.

For parents, a visit to a café or restaurant is often work as much as it is leisure. Our interviewees have highlighted that little things can make visits pleasurable or frustrating. For example, service staff making families feel genuinely welcome, treating children as decision makers, providing foods that parents trust or even smaller cutlery can transform people's experiences.

Dr Peter Lugosi, Oxford School of Hospitality Management, Oxford Brookes University

Drawing on interviews carried out in both the UK and Australia, researchers have addressed this knowledge gap by answering two research questions: first, how is parenting and childcare provision performed within restaurants, cafes and pubs; and second, how do different aspects of hospitality provision, including the design and facilities, products and services as well as staff and customers, influence their experiences? 

Dr Peter Lugosi, Reader in the Oxford School of Hospitality Management and principal investigator of the study said: “For parents, a visit to a café or restaurant is often work as much as it is leisure. Our interviewees have highlighted that little things can make visits pleasurable or frustrating. For example, service staff making families feel genuinely welcome, treating children as decision makers, providing foods that parents trust or even smaller cutlery can transform people's experiences.

“Keeping children happy and engaged ensures that their parents can focus on enjoying their leisure, and so can the other patrons.”

"Our study identifies a number of implications for management practice and several avenues for future research.”

Following the study researchers have put together top tips for hospitality operators to keep parents, carers and children coming back, including:

  • The experience starts before people enter the venue: poor access puts people off venues. Lack of parking, awkward access between the car park and the venue and even narrow doorways may discourage parents from going near a venue, especially if they have to manoeuvre buggies.
  • Mind that child: focusing on the children as active decision makers is valued by parents and children. Nobody likes being ignored or talked over, including children. Engaging children in conversations, explaining dishes and encouraging them to make choices can lead to happier little customer.

More of the top tips can be read online at HospitalityNet. Dr Peter Lugosi also talks more about the study in a recent online news article by BigHospitality.

This study is an example of the strength of research at Oxford Brookes which continues to grow and is increasingly global in its scope. The University is growing its international collaborations which are having an increasing impact around the world.

The Oxford School of Hospitality Management is a world-leading provider of higher education in the field of international hospitality and tourism management. More information can be found on their website.