Posted on January 25 2019
Having a kid friendly restaurant can be a boon for the restaurant operator. Families with young children represent a lucrative demographic. But the first question you should be asking yourself is this: “Is this right for my restaurant concept?”
Almost every restaurant finds itself serving children from time to time, even if they aren’t considered a child friendly restaurant. But not all establishments are the right fit for implementing these types of ideas to become a more kid friendly restaurant.
If your business appeals to more high-end diners or focuses on the appeal of your bar offerings, then these ideas may not be right for you. But if you are looking to attract more families as customers, then you might find some of these ideas’ worth exploring.
So how can you create a restaurant environment that appeals to these families? Let’s explore some ideas on creating a kid friendly restaurant.
- The Kids Menu: A clever kid’s menu can go a long way toward creating a good customer experience for children. Children can have a powerful impact on their parents’ purchase decisions. This is also true when it comes to restaurant choice. Fast food restaurants recognized this long ago and began shaping their offerings to appeal to children (think Happy Meal). And while there are many factors that go into this influence, at the most basic level, you need to have foods that kids want to eat. Lastly, have fun with your kids’ menu. Be creative and silly with the naming of your menu items. Kids love to play and you can engage them with your menu itself.
Some of the most popular items include: Macaroni & cheese; Pizza; Chicken nuggets or tenders; Hamburgers; Hotdogs; Fish sticks & Spaghetti
- Educate & Train Your Staff: Many workers in your restaurant won’t have experience working with children. They may not be parents themselves and they may never have worked with kids. And this may come as a surprise to some: Kids are not always the easiest customers to deal with. Yes, it’s true. So, a little education for your staff can go a long way.
First, train your hosts and hostesses to seat families in an appropriate location. This includes seating families at larger tables when possible. Kids and babies come with extra “stuff.” Having room to accommodate them is important.
Consider other aspects of the physical space. Are there plants or paintings on the wall that could be pulled down by little hands? Are there open electrical outlets nearby? Sometimes kids don’t stay in their seats so being aware of the surrounding area is an important consideration when seating families with small kids.
Help your staff be prepared for the worst. Kids have meltdowns. It happens. But how a staff reacts can make all the difference in the world, especially for weary parents. And providing a supportive, good experience can help to build loyalty for your restaurant. And, conversely, a bad reaction might signal a family’s last visit to your establishment.
You can offer distraction items like crayons and activities placemats. Sometimes that’s all that is needed to settle a situation. But other times, nothing is going to help and servers need to know when to back off.
- High Chairs & Booster Seats: Kids are not just tiny adults. They often require special seating such as a high chair or a booster seat. You will need to have multiple options to accommodate multiple child diners simultaneously. You should also be aware that new federal guidelines are in place for 2019 with regard to high chair standards. Better to be ahead of the game than to face a lawsuit over an injury to a child.
- Changing Tables: Changing tables in both the women's and men's restrooms show you understand the needs of parents. And show both your staff and your parent customers that you really care by stocking up on sanitary liners for your changing station. Changing diapers is a messy process. Anything you can do to help keep the area clean and sanitary will communicate to parents that you care. And your staff with thank you when it comes to keeping that part of the restroom clean as well.
- Entertainment Options: You should have a plan for keeping children entertained while they wait to be served. Kids get bored in restaurants. But you can help by providing some entertainment options for children. One of the most popular options is activity placemats and crayons. It’s a timeless classic. Crayons can be purchased in bulk or in single serving packs. If you want to provide a more open drawing space, consider using butcher paper as a table covering. That way, a child can color all over with no muss or fuss.
- Games at the Table: If you want to get high-tech, you can investigate implementing a tabletop game system. These systems typically use a tablet or similar dedicated touchscreen to offer games and activities. Many of these are offered as subscription services by their manufacturers and can be used to collect additional revenue if you choose to charge for using the system.
But keep in mind that some parents may not want this type of entertainment option for their children. So if you do go this route, you should make sure that the system is removable from the table when needed.
- Accessories: You need to be prepared with things like bibs and cups with lids. By now, you are probably realizing that there is more to creating a child-friendly environment than simply serving chicken strips. But you aren’t done yet. There are any number of other accessory items that you will want to consider as well.
Kids are messy eaters. And often, parents come less than prepared. They will thank you for providing the little extras to make their stay more enjoyable (and hopefully, less messy).
Bibs can be a lifesaver. Bibs are inexpensive and much appreciated by parents, especially if they forgot to bring their own.
Similarly, you should consider having specific child-size cups with lids. Let’s repeat that last part: WITH LIDS!
- Marketing to Families with Offers: I’m sure you have seen these types of offers: Kids Eat Free! These types of deals can be quite effective, especially to families on a budget. But you need to strategize your offers before just throwing around the freebies.
First, consider the age range that you want to focus on. Teenagers probably won’t want to eat off a kids menu. And teenage appetites can make a freebie deal a big loser for your restaurant. Many offers focus on kids 12 years old and younger.
The items on your kids menu are typically less expensive than your adult entrees. Giving these away can actually be more cost effective than other types of coupons or deals. But you definitely want to set boundaries and spell out your offer clearly so that your customers know what to expect and so you do not end up losing money on the offer.
Even if you don’t go offer entirely “free” meals, you can still be creative with your offers to parents. You need to decide what works for you.