When it comes to choosing its customers - romantic couples versus families with children - Cape May's Mad Batter Restaurant knows on which side its toasted bread points are buttered, said General Manager Kay Busch, of Vineland.

"We try, but it's not like we can be completely geared toward couples. We're a big family restaurant," she said. "We have a large kids menu. It's a very eclectic look inside the dining room."

Busch said Cape May has obvious appeal for couples, from its moonlit horse-and-carriage rides to stays in Victorian bed-and-breakfasts. But its biggest draw is family vacationers.

The Cape May County Department of Tourism this spring urged businesses to keep both markets in mind in their advertising and promotions.

Family vacations are the staple of the South Jersey tourism market. But adult audiences are important as well, especially during the school year, Director Diane Wieland said.

"You want to make sure your message appeals to both sides," she said. "When we're looking at promoting what we have to offer in terms of diversity, we have to show the beach. But you don't just want to show children splashing in the water, but couples enjoying walking on the beach at sunset."

Renee Savoie, of Mays Landing, spent an afternoon sharing a cup of Curly's Fries on the Ocean City Boardwalk with her husband, Rene Savoie, away from their 12- and 16-year-old boys.

They usually visit Ocean City as a family, but there are plenty of things for couples, she said.

"I think they do a really good job of reaching out to different groups. My husband's family in Canada knows all about Wildwood," she said.

They often get offers geared around romantic getaways, such as couple's massages offered by hotels in Cape May.

Vincent and Tina Holden, of Vineland, sneaked away to Ocean City for a few hours of beach time while their daughter was in school.

"We were just taking in the ocean and the quietness. We walked on the beach, and I read my book. I just told my husband, 'Do not tell our daughter we came here,'" she said as she finished an ice cream cone from her oceanfront Boardwalk bench.

Sometimes the interests of couples and families coincide: beaches, amusement parks and boardwalk strolls. Sometimes they don't: screaming kids versus adult-themed conversations at adjacent dinner tables.

But Wieland said the key is to suggest ways that the county's $5 billion tourism industry can appeal to everyone.

"The appeal is there for both sides. But it's just a matter for how you suggest they experience it," she said.

WW Hospitality Marketing in Philadelphia is keeping this in mind as part of its marketing plan for the Montreal Inn in Cape May, spokeswoman Jennifer Norton said.

"A lot of our business comes from families. But we've been putting some packages together for couples as well," she said. "We'd like to expand our shoulder season. We'll include some empty-nester packages, romance packages - things that will attract clientele outside the family."

John Cooke, of Cape May, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May, said the seasons dictate how hotels, restaurants and attractions tailor their marketing.

"But equally important in-season is the demographic we used to call couples without children. They're important for the foundation of the tourism business," he said. "They're the ones who might come back all year long. That's a market Cape May especially wants to appeal to."

Contact Michael Miller:

609-272-7217