From the beginning of marketing time, the mom has been the target demographic for almost everything. As the center point for domesticity and the family, she was the shopper for the household and its members–imagine Donna Reed spending Mr. Reed’s (he didn’t have a first name, and if he did, does anyone really care?) money on appliances, groceries, and clothing.
The white, stay-at-home-mom was also the one who oversaw the children pretty much 24/7 if movies and television are to be believed. This meant she decided where they would go if they went out to lunch on a shopping day, for instance: maybe the coffee shop with the delicious sandwiches! Did they have coffee shops in black and white times?
These days, the person in charge of the children could be anyone; but, their needs and desires are just as important and Donna and her disciples. Moms, Dads, Nannies or whoever is caring for the children, have specifications that you can meet to attract them to your space. I know for a fact that nannies, especially in metropolitan areas, travel in groups; when you work with a stranger’s kids all day–especially if they aren’t at the speaking age yet–you need some adult time. If on a Saturday, Mom or Dad need to run errands, they need a reason to enter and stay at your coffee shop for their lunch, caffeinated or general rest break.
First things first: you need a space for strollers. Preferably the toddler-toters will fold their strollers neatly for more optimal storage; but, this is wishful thinking. Many modern strollers don’t fold and many people on an outing with one or more children for the day have too many bags and things in hidden stroller compartments to feasibly fold it. If you can designate a good-sized space for strollers, that is the first sign that people with children are welcome. You can also consider investing in bike locks so you can offer patrons the option of chaining their strollers outdoors if the weather permits, or if you have a covered space somewhere. You could also post a sign or have your employees inform patrons that their strollers can be moved into a storage space in the back or downstairs if you have such an option. This lets them know that you aren’t inconvenienced by their presence, making them feel welcome, and it gives them the added convenience as well.
You could also provide high-chairs for smaller children as they do at restaurants–booster seats as well. These small moves let the adults-in-charge know that you’re trying to make their lives as easy as possible–and that you want them there!
Communal tables, again, are great for this niche market, because people caring for children often travel with multiple children (as the pluralization implies); this is especially true of parents having an adult playdate of sorts, hoping to catch up over lattes while their children catch up under the table (or something). Communal tables are also excellent for young children who aren’t quite familiar with sitting still or staying inside their personal bubbles; they also allow for activities such as coloring or board games which will most definitely be employed to keep them from disrupting your loyal customers.
Another tip in that vein, then, is to provide board games, coloring books/pages, and books yourself. The best coffee shops I patronize have some or all of these options. I’ve even utilized board games with my adult friends. If you stock books, you’ll want ones appropriate for a variety of ages; you could also feature a special where people can get a free beverage for a book or board game donation!
To accommodate people with children, you’ll also want to ensure that you have plenty of options on your menu for children. This includes not only juices, chocolate milk and other non-caffeinated beverages, but also kid sizes to anything and everything. This is a small way to take the stress from baby-wranglers, by allowing them to get their children a treat without having to pay adult prices for something that the child will probably only end up drinking half. You can also include menu items with kid-friendly titles or something like animal-shaped cookies; you know, there’s also the staple PB&J or grilled cheese if you offer meal options.
You could also consider offering events tailored to these niche customers, like parenting classes or kids craft times.