It’s true that not all restaurants are family-friendly; some don’t even allow kids, and it’s not necessary that all establishments cater to those with small children. However, a restaurant that goes above and beyond to accommodate children makes instantaneous loyal customers out of parents looking for a fun family night out with as little stress as possible.
Attracting families and keeping them happy can work in your favor. Ticket prices will be larger with multiple meals within one family, plus the add-ons that serve as rewards (or bribes) to ensure everyone is well-behaved through the meal. Families, and especially mothers, possess incredible networks as well. Once one mom deems a restaurant suited for children, her friends and all the other neighborhood moms will know, perhaps even singing your praises before having a chance to visit themselves. And while you might not always be attracting a young, funky crowd, touting the reputation of a “good family place” never hurt anyone in the grand scheme of business.
Here are some tips to making your restaurant kid- and family-friendly.
Seating is always an issue to tackle to settle a family in. Booths are convenient for families of toddlers, but they don’t easily fit booster seats and infant carriers. Offer a variety of options to a family, like a booth with a sling for the carseat, or a wide corner table with room to spread out. If the family is comfortable, they will stay longer and order more.
Just like seating, variety is good. A kids menu and crayons can suffice for any age group for a few minutes; but a two-year-old won’t long be entertained by the word-puzzles and tricky mazes normally found below the menu listing. Try keeping some books or games on-hand for busy toddlers. Better yet, encourage your wait staff to engage the kids. Once a waiter brought some plain paper to my daughter and asked her to draw some specific animals for him. She was so thrilled to have a task and someone to pay her attention that she spent most of the meal carefully crafting a yellow giraffe and made sure to give the picture to the waiter before she we left.
Kid-friendly food is a must for a kid-friendly restaurant. You can’t go wrong with the staples: chicken fingers, mac ‘n cheese, grilled cheese. But consider some healthy add-ins for the parents hoping to maintain some control over the nutritional value of the meal. Side options are a great way for the parent to decide if the whole meal is a “treat” or if their kid still needs to eat some veggies.
. This will win you the approval of both kids and parents for sure. With parents’ permission, reward a well-behaved child. It’s not hard to keep a small chest of cheap toys on-hand or some cookies to send home.
5. Kid Section.
Sometimes all a busy kid needs is a quick stretch or change of scenery. A little corner with a few toys or even just pictures on the wall can be a great destination for a kid and parent before the food comes to the table.
More than anything, to win the business of the well-connected parents, offer patience and understanding. Everyone has off days. Be kind to those parents darting the stares of other patrons. Insist that they not concern themselves with a mess beneath the table or an accidental spill on a chair.
Photo courtesy of Family Sibaja