7 minute read

FAMILY FRIENDLY: GLEN HOTEL

A hotel that grows with you

For the owners of the Glen Hotel, families are central to the business, as its offerings make clear.

-By Caoimhe Hanrahan-Lawrance.

THE GLEN Hotel has been owned and run by the Fitzgibbons family since 1960. The hotel is run with a mantra of “what does the customer want?”, and the owners strive to create a welcoming, comfortable environment for every customer, whether they’re one or 100.

The deck overlooking the playground allows parents to eat their meal while keeping an eye on their kids

The deck overlooking the playground allows parents to eat their meal while keeping an eye on their kids

“Over the last five years, there’s been more of a focus in terms of activations, but even 20 years ago, we had clowns for kids, we had a playground,” explains the hotel’s director, Cathy Fitzgibbons. “I guess it’s just each time doing it better than we’ve done it before.”

The Glen Hotel is a “typical Queensland hotel” that has been added on to over the years. This has resulted in a diversity of spaces within the venue, such as The Deck, Alphonsus Pizza in the courtyard, and Charles Baker Donuts & Coffee at the carpark entrance.

“Each area has got its own identity,” Fitzgibbons describes. The venue benefits from high ceilings and views onto the large gardens and nearby creek. In an area with many new developments, some without their own backyards, The Glen provides children with a space to play and enjoy the fresh air. The hotel also has an impressive onsite playground, school holiday workshops, and kids eat free offers on Wednesdays and at Sunday breakfast.

The Perfect Playground

Visible from the main road, the playground is the most obvious sign of the Glen Hotel’s appeal for families. Previously, the playground was comprised of plastic tubes and sectioned off from the rest of the deck with a gate. However, separating children from their parents proved problematic, with parents regularly needing to leave their meals to let their children out of the playground. During the most recent major development, the playground was completely redesigned. The new playground is now an open-flow design, so kids can enter and exit the playground freely. Parents also have a clear view of the new playground from the deck seating, and there is a bench inside the playground area.

The playground can be seen from a major road

The playground can be seen from a major road

The playground, designed by PlayWorks, includes aspects of nature play. The ground isn’t flat, but rather mimics the natural curves of the outdoors. It is covered in grass, with carved logs to provide visual and tactile interest. The designer also retained some of the plastic tubes from the earlier playground, forming a caterpillar structure on the ground that the children can crawl through. The centrepiece of the playground is the tractor, Deckster, which encourages collaborative and imaginative play.

The new playground was designed with natural elevations in the space

The new playground was designed with natural elevations in the space

“We’re on a fairly major road on the south side of Brisbane and you can almost hear mum driving past the hotel and the child in the back going ‘Can we go there? Look at that tractor, look at the playground!’ If you drive past on a busy night, it’s just full. It’s almost like the children become our little networkers,” says Fitzgibbons.

The deck overlooking the playground was also designed with families in mind. The tables are large enough to seat an entire family. Additionally, the walkways are wide enough to ensure a comfortable passage for walkers and prams.

Holiday Pizza Parties

Five years ago, noticing that the courtyard was an underutilised space, the owners of the Glen purchased two authentic Italian pizza ovens from Naples and launched Alphonsus Pizza. Though the Glen served pizza beforehand, the new ovens allowed for higher quality pizzas. The incredibly popular school holiday activations began soon after.

School holiday workshops take place at Alphonsus Pizza

School holiday workshops take place at Alphonsus Pizza

The core school holiday activity is a pizza-making workshop run by The Glen’s pizzaiolo, Jimmy. In one of these workshops, the children learn about the Neapolitan pizza ovens and the ingredients used in pizza. Then they go into the dough room to see the pizza dough being made. Afterwards, they pick herbs from the herb garden and put their toppings on their pizzas. At the end of the workshop, each child receives a certificate and a photo with the pizzaiolo. Other school holiday workshops have included dessert pizza making, an Easter egg hunt, Christmas cookie decorating, and herb pot painting.

The response to the school holiday activities has been overwhelmingly positive, with the workshops selling out quickly. Parents have expressed their surprise at how interactive the workshops are, and that the children can see the kitchens and dough room. The workshops are more than an affordable activity for children during the school holidays; they also teach children about the way their food is made and introduce them to the service industry.

The Parlor is popular with families

The Parlor is popular with families

“I hope that it encourages young people to work in hospitality, or to be a chef or to be a bar attendant or a food server, just showing them that working in a hotel is pretty cool,” says Fitzgibbons.

“It’s a perfect time to excite young ones about cooking and all of the benefits of working in this type of environment, where no two days are the same.”

Something for the Parents

For the Glen Hotel, focusing on families doesn’t just mean focusing on children. Charles Baker Café & Donuts has proven a major drawcard for parents. Charles Baker was introduced so that the clientele would have a welcome point at the carparkside entry. Prior to this, most customers entered via the carpark, but had to walk well into the hotel before they encountered staff members.

The owners also wanted to improve the quality of coffee served at the Glen to a standard where they would happily drink it themselves. Charles Baker now offers parents a space to socialise, spend time with their children before work, or just grab a much-needed, well-brewed cup of coffee. The Parlour dessert bar also has a benefit for parents, as it provides a good incentive for their children to behave during a visit to the Glen.

No kids? No problem

While you would be forgiven for assuming that a venue could not cater both to families and to young adults without children, the Glen Hotel proves that it can be done. Over the pandemic, the Glen Hotel saw an increase in younger adult clientele, as people explored their local neighbourhoods and went out closer to home. The bar offers an updated cocktail menu and ample seating for friends to meet up. The various offerings within the Glen mean that younger adults can have a friendly drink without children underfoot, and parents can feel free to let their kids be kids.

Alphonsus Pizza and the courtyard

Alphonsus Pizza and the courtyard

“There’s a lot of space for everyone to sit alongside each other for their particular purpose without impinging on the vibe that they want,” says Fitzgobbons.

One sacrifice that the owners did have to make was ending the late-night dance trade. They decided that they couldn’t have both.

“That was a big decision because the late-night bar trade can be quite lucrative,” the director explains.

The change resulted in a decrease in the cost of security and earlier closing times. However, the owners don’t feel that there has been any loss in energy – the Glen still feels like a place where people know they will have a good time.

The Glen prides itself on being a community pub that listens and responds to the needs of its clientele. With its diverse offerings, the venue can accommodate a broad range of clientele and a variety of events. Its long history also allows the hotel to grow alongside the local community.

“We have a lot of customers who will say ‘We got married here, and now we’re here for our 20th wedding anniversary,’” Cathy concludes. “There’s a lot of memories tied up with our local community to do with the hotel.”