Operate & Optimise
“Install some playground equipment, open your doors… and be the same as everyone else”
Marc Gruijters, Kidsplaza Helmond
Kidsplaza Helmond is a model of hospitality. Adult visitors are pampered there. There is a clever notion behind all this; after all, people who are enjoying themselves will stay for longer.
Entrepreneur Marc Gruijters walked around with the idea for six years. He once visited an indoor playground in Venlo with his kids and thought to himself: “I want that too.” Only different. “A playground in itself is a strong concept, but I wanted to put something unique on the market. My concept had to be so special that it would even attract people from outside Helmond.”
Marc succeeded in his ambitions. Kidsplaza has been around for a year and a half now. The accommodation is most like a cosy family restaurant with an enormous play area. “The other day, we had forty adults and three children from Blerick to celebrate grandma’s birthday, who was turning 85. For Easter, we hosted a brunch and had 420 reservations. That proves it is not just about the indoor playground, but also about the quality of our food. I see that as a major compliment.” Marc has agreed to reveal the strong points of his hospitality concept for Ins & Outs.
Healthy food as an extra
Marc: “People love having options to choose from. The greasy sandwich, the fries and the sausage are old news. For the parents, we offer fresh smoothies and a selection of freshly made subs, from goat’s cheese to spicy chicken and carpaccio. We introduced an extensive high tea a year ago and we will soon add all kinds of tapas dishes to our menu. There is a definite trend to serve healthier food. We have been doing that from the start. We listen to what our guests want and try to think along with them in any way possible. They are glad to have options, although fries and snacks are still quite popular.”
Lounge for parents
Marc: “Parents are a category in and of themselves. The parents are often the ones to call it quits after an hour or two, even though you as the entrepreneur want them to stay as long as possible. That is why we have a lounge area with a bar and a hundred seats. It is basically an extension of the terrace in the playground, which has 300 seats. There is air conditioning, a billiards table and Wi-Fi. It is a great place to relax. Moms and dads can enjoy a beer or a glass of wine, work on their laptops or chat, while their children are off having a great time. The lounge area is also used for parties and celebrations. If you want to throw a party for a hundred people, that is no problem. We even have disco lights and a good sound system and we can easily create a dance floor. If you want to facilitate parties, it is important to do it right.”
High tea, because it is so delicious
Marc: “We have almost as many reservations for high teas as for children’s parties. It was a great idea to introduce that concept. It has given adults a reason to come to Kidsplaza. Last week, for example, we had a family from Arnhem who found us online. Apparently, the combination of an indoor playground and high tea is fairly unique. We offer several versions of our luxury high teas, for both adults and children. Gluten-free, halal, everything is possible. We even offer a high tea for vegans. We are considering doing something with ‘high wine’ or ‘high beer’.”
Service at the table
Marc: “I am convinced that you have to offer top-quality service in order to get parents to stay a while longer. I therefore opted for service at the table. We now use hand-held terminals, so guests no longer have to come to the register to order and pay. We have trained our staff to service guests and that has paid off well. We now earn more revenue per visitor, our guests appreciate the service and my staff enjoy their work more. I dare say this was an excellent move.”
Personal contact is perhaps the most important aspect of our entire hospitality concept.
We ask our customers if everything is in order. We say goodbye when people leave. During their time here, we think along with them and help wherever we can.
A role in society
Marc: “We collaborate with several parties from Helmond which advocate a healthy or conscious lifestyle. Dance school UnityEight offers a range of workshops on our dance floor. Participation is free for children; if you are here, you can join in. We hosted a very successful event with the players of Helmond Sport. The players came here and played all kinds of games with the kids. That was quite an experience for the parents as well. We have also partnered with the Elkerliek hospital by sponsoring the children’s ward. Any kid that is undergoing a clinical treatment is given a voucher for Kidsplaza, which they can use online to get a free ticket. I love doing something for those kids and their health.”
Marc is a perfectionist. Everything has to reflect his high standard of quality. He strives to exceed his visitors’ expectations every single time. Marc listens, monitors and puts criticism to good use. “A while ago, I heard of some people who went home because their baby had to sleep. Two weeks later, I had two cribs for babies to sleep in. Now, parents with a baby and a toddler can stay a bit longer. The longer people stay, the more revenue we earn.”
He ignores anyone who claims that “parents cannot keep an eye on their children”. “To me, that is the great thing about Kidsplaza. The children play in a separate area. That is where all the noise and music are. People also leave their kids in the playground at Ikea, so they can do their own thing in peace. It is the same here. We make sure everyone has a great time. We keep an eye on the children. Nobody can run away, it is perfectly safe here and everything has been certified. For adults, this is just as much a day out as it is for their kids.”