5 Ways to Make Your Restaurant Kid Friendly

This weekend I met some friends out for lunch at a local restaurant. Much to my delight, they brought along their adorably chubby, 14 month old son. Of course, it is MY delight to have a cute baby for me to snuggle while I’m enjoying a nice meal. However, anyone that has actually taken a child to a restaurant or been seated next to a child knows, it’s not exactly a delight if the restaurant isn’t  kid friendly.

While we were dining, I picked up both positive and negative attributes of our local establishment when it came to serving customers with children. While your restaurant might not want to scream “kid friendly” from the rooftops, it’s important to give special attention to your tiniest patrons. Below you’ll ready my list of five must-haves for kid friendly restaurants.

  1. Changing stations in ALL restrooms.  I experienced this first hand this weekend. After seriously devouring a handful of chicken breast, my friends’ Little Peanut needed a diaper change. Dad graciously accepted responsibility for this task, but quickly returned when he realized the only flat surface for him to change a diaper was the floor. I’m not sure whose brilliant idea that was, but I left a tip with the hostess on the way out. The Donna Reed era is over; let’s get a changing station in the men’s room too.

  2. A Bread Basket over crackers. On a busy Saturday night, try as you may, it’s hard to get your kitchen to pump out kids meals ASAP. So, as any intelligent restaurateur would, you offer a few packets of crackers to tide over the kiddos. Unfortunately, saltine crackers are easy prey to tiny hands. What’s not? Warm, crusty bread.  As a mother, there’s nothing like having bits of cracker burst open across the table to make you feel like a horrible guest. As a former server, there’s nothing worse than trying to vacuum up those tiny pieces of cracker under the table. Here’s my advice, offer a bread basket to families once they’re seated. Or consider re-tooling your menu to offer kid friendly appetizers or sides that can be brought out quickly.

  3. Crayons, paper tablecloths or activity place mats  This seems fairly obvious, like the hallmark of kid friendly establishments; cups of crayons sit proudly on each table ready to be worn to nubs, or at least scribbled for 10 minutes before being quickly discarded to the floor or a crack in the booth. This brings us to my next tip…

  4. Get the food out, fast. The first 10 minutes at the table are crucial to families. Kids get hungry and bored quickly. Managing that little bit of time is akin to watching a pot of water start to boil over. Work with your waitstaff to ensure they offer to bring kids meals out first to families with small children.  All parents appreciate speedy service.

  5. Offer kid friendly events on certain days or during non-peak hours. The restaurant I worked in during college had a magician every Wednesday night. It was broadly advertised, not only in our store, but also in partnership with the zoo and other kid-focused businesses. Every Wednesday, the atmosphere would transform to a fun, laid-back, eating environment. Offering this type of event is a great way to get families into your restaurant without the stress of keeping the kids under control. This is better for everyone – kids, parents  and other diners.

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