Many restaurants nowadays are keen to present themselves as family friendly. Going out for dinner can be an occasion for all the family, with children’s menus and special experiences as part of the dining experiences, from self-service ice cream machines to goodie bags.
One challenge for family friendly restaurants is maintaining hygiene and food safety. Young children are more likely to get messy, of course, which can mean more frequent or intensive cleaning for front of house staff. But there could be another reason to stay alert to hygiene issues: children may not be getting effective health education from an early age.
A study published in the Food Control journal (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713513001278) suggests that children need to be exposed to lessons on hygiene at an earlier age than is typically practised in schools today.
The research from a team at the University of Padova and the Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute of Southern Italy notes: ‘Effective food safety interventions implemented in schools should be an important way to reach children and to improve their knowledge and habits in the context of food handling and personal hygiene. However, few intervention programmes of this kind have been implemented with young children, as the preferred groups are secondary school children, young adults and adults.’
While the research team calls for better education provision for younger children in schools, foodservice businesses can play their part too, in a bid to avoid hygiene issues. Signage at a child’s eye level in restrooms can help promote hand washing and hygiene. Fonts, colours and themes can be used to enhance their appeal to children.
In some cases it might be appropriate to apply the same themes to table places for children visiting your restaurant, with napkins, or individual hand and face wipes, that carry the same theme as your signage.
Hand wash stations are another useful front of house feature for more casual dining experiences. Parents can then easily oversee their child’s hand washing before eating, or after they’ve finished. And again, these can be themed with items such as hand soap and paper towels that invite children to interact.
None of this can substitute the professional standards of food safety and hygiene, applied in front of house and the kitchen too. High standards of cleaning are vital to create a safe, inviting environment that gets families visiting – and returning. But creating the right environment can make your restaurant an enjoyable, hygienic and safe experience for all the family too.