TIME TO CHANGE: If you're not thinking about your youngest customers, it's time to start doing so.
Not long back, the New York Times ran a story about a guy who shows up at a Hooters in Manhattan and asks the hostess if they have a diaper-changing table in the men's room. As you might expect, the national chain restaurant did not.
Surprisingly, Hooters, known for its scantily clad female staff, did have a changing table in the women's room. The accommodating staff offered to watch the door as the man changed his daughter's diaper in the women's room. "We're very family friendly," the enthusiastic Hooters hostess told the man.
The man, Greg Allen, was actually doing research for his blog, daddytypes.com, which is a weblog for new dads. He was compiling a list of public men's rooms in New York City with changing tables. At the time the story was written, he had found 32.
Four years ago, New York City failed to pass a bill that would have required all new or renovated public bathrooms (for both genders) to have changing tables. That helps explain why Allen could find so few restrooms suitably equipped. In San Francisco and Miami-Dade County, however, laws are on the books that require such actions be taken.
It hasn't been that long since baby changing tables arrived on the scene. Koala Bear Kare is the oldest and largest manufacturer, and it began in the early 1990's. The company's sales and marketing director, David Leigh, says the inclusion of changing tables in restrooms is no longer a matter of courtesy, it makes good business sense. Parents will simply visit more often restaurants that offer child amenities such as baby changing tables, high chairs and booster seats.
The Englewood, CO-based company recently conducted an independent national market study of 350 parents with children under the age of six. The purpose was to measure parental levels of patronage and loyalty toward family businesses based on child accommodations and amenities. The research found that parents are more loyal, visit more often and spend more money at establishments when child-related amenities are provided. Here are some statistics to chew on:
- Nearly 90 percent of parents bring their children with them most or all of the time when they shop or visit public places, including casual restaurants.
- Seventy-five percent deliberately seek out places that have child amenities.
- Seventy seven percent have used baby changing stations, 90 percent at least monthly.
- Nearly 66 percent mention booster seats, high chairs and baby changing stations as amenities they seek out.
- High chairs, booster seats and baby changing stations are equal in importance to children's meals, and second only to having a child-friendly staff.
- Parents feel it is equally important to provide baby changing stations as high chairs.
Apparently, most restaurant and public places are getting the message. According to industry experts, it's rare today that an order for a baby changing table be only for the women's restroom.
As a restaurant operator you try to think of every possible way you can to accommodate your customers. If child amenities are one area that has slipped through the cracks, you may want to take a look.