0 bunny

This is a picture of a bunny shaped pizza. Now that is surely the most original start to any of my blog posts! How can anyone that writes about the subject of customer experience be able to use a picture of a pizza shaped like a rabbit as a source for a post? Well please allow me just a little time to tell you!

I have always believed that children are an extremely important segment of society for many businesses when determining their customer experience strategy. Some industries are more aligned to this than others. Obviously companies like Disney have made an art form out of delivering exceptional customer experiences that align to the minds of children (young and old!). But it is not just the obvious that can benefit from thinking of our little people.

The restaurant industry was one of the first to recognise the importance of children. Ignore the ethical issues for a moment, but let us just consider McDonalds as an example. The ‘Happy Meal’ was invented by a McDonalds marketer called Dick Brams in 1977. Dick’s idea was to create a meal just for children. At the time this seemed an incredibly novel thing to do – but what a creation it turned out to be. By making children a distinct part of the ‘customer journey’ Dick had now given an even greater reason for parents to visit a McDonalds restaurant. Not only that, but by making the Happy meal such a memorable part of the experience, many of those children have grown into adults who also let their own children indulge in one from time to time. I found a great article in the US version of Time magazine on the history of the Happy meal if you are interested – http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1986073,00.html.

Almost every restaurant in the world now has a ‘kids menu’. It just makes sense. Adults with children (parents that is) are more likely to embark on a customer journey that involves ‘eating out’ if the establishment they happen to visit accommodates and understands children. Some restaurants choose not to have ‘kids menus’. Maybe they do not want children to visit. Maybe they much prefer their bigger spending adult only customers. Whatever the reason, leaving children out of your customer experience strategy is a risky business.

A long time ago I worked for Brakes – Brakes is one of the UKs largest food service providers – supplying many restaurants, hotels, schools and more with fresh and frozen food. I remember visiting a customer with a member of the sales team. The sales person was trying to convince the restaurant owners to launch a children’s menu. ‘This is not a kid friendly restaurant’, the owner replied. ‘How is your business doing?’, the sales person asked. ‘Not very well – lunchtimes are too quiet at the weekend’ – I wonder why!

Children are the PRESENT and FUTURE of customer experience. What they experience now will undoubtedly drive what they want their own children to experience in the future. Companies that understand, promote and look after their younger customers will live in the memory of young children. This is where the rabbit shaped pizza comes in.

This is L’Artista – an Italian restaurant in the centre of Playa Blanca, Lanzarote. For those of you who hail from London, the restaurant is owned by the brother-in-law of the chap who owns restaurants of the same name in England’s capital. During our week-long half term break in February, we visited L’Artista for an evening meal. One thing that we should point out here is that like many businesses, L’Artista is in a very competitive market. Sitting up some steps from the promenade, the restaurant competes with at least 100 others for passing trade. It is therefore essential that it has something to make it stand out – to enable customers to remember it.

The first thing you notice is the rather charismatic owner. Very loud and very friendly, he speaks to everyone that walks past – if they allow him to. He is very engaging and very memorable – not annoying as it may sound. On our visit, Ciara, Caitie and Jack had pre decided that they were going to have pizza for dinner. After a week of tapas, they wanted a night off.

Being 8 and 9, our daughters have now got to the stage where they do not always want the ‘kids menu’ – they are far too grown up for that. ‘What would you like’ the owner asked? ‘A Fiorentina pizza por favor’ (we were in Spain) was Ciara’s response. ‘Do you want a big one or a kids one?’ the owner asked. ‘A big one’ Ciara immediately shot back. ‘Are you sure?’ the owner asked. He then made a big song and dance to convince Ciara not to have a big pizza.

I was intrigued. It is not often you see the owner of an establishment trying to sell something that was cheaper than the thing the customer was asking for. None of us could quite understand why, but he was convincing enough to change Ciara’s mind. When a little under ten minutes later three rabbit shaped pizzas arrived, we understood. Ciara’s face was a picture. Jack and Caitie were equally delighted with their bunny shaped efforts. It was a very simple, yet very clever touch.

The restaurant does not advertise the fact that the pizza chef does this. You would not guess from walking past that it was a particularly child friendly restaurant. What the owner of this pizzeria has managed to do without spending a penny on marketing, is create a wonderful experience that his customers will then market for him. We told everyone about our experience. Our three little people thought it was the best meal of the holiday. They have told their friends about it. The owner of L’Artista has either intentionally or inherently understood how to appeal to the younger generation. In a society where the vast majority of parents want happy and excited children – especially on holiday, he is on to a winner.

L’Artista has been in Lanzarote for years – I remember passing it on previous visits to the island ‘pre-children’. I guarantee that if it is still there in a few years time, Ciara, Caitie and Jack will pay a visit when they bring their own children to Lanzarote. They will never forget their bunny shaped pizzas – it is that simple.

We were all born children (that is a fact that some ‘anti children’ adults should remember). Children have surprisingly good memories. Most parents want to have experiences with organisations that make life easier for them – and experiences that are memorable for them and their children. Designing experiences with children in mind is a very sensible thing for organisations to do. It is becoming more commonplace. If your organisation has not, it may be worth thinking about it right now.

What organisations do you think have designed brilliant customer experiences with children in mind? I would love to know. Please feel free to comment on this post as always.