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Archive | July, 2013

Knife Sharpening [Video]

Welcome back to our series on knife sharpening and honing.  This week Chris Tavano will cover how knife sharpening works by taking a look at different types of knife sharpeners.  If you don’t know if you should be sharpening or honing, we’d suggest starting with the first video on honing, then come back here if you’re sure that sharpening is indeed what you want to do.

Video Transcribe

Chris Tavano: Good afternoon.  Welcome to Tundra Restaurant Supply.  I am Chris Tavano and today we’re going to talk about a little bit of knife care and maintenance.  So keep in mind if honing did not quite do the job you were looking for and you’re still having difficulties cutting through your tomatoes and onions, you might want to think about starting to sharpen it with a sharpening stone.  Again, some recap, the difference between honing and sharpening is very drastic.  Honing is going to restore your edge while sharpening is going to recreate a new edge.   Honing also reshapes the metal blade; whereas, sharpening grinds a new blade.  So honing doesn’t remove any metal, but sharpening removes a lot of metal from your blade.

Alright, so once you’ve honed your knife and you’re still not seeing the results that you would desire, it is time to sharpen your knife.  Now this is where things get a little bit hairy and a little bit more confusing.  Here we have sharpening stones.  This is a tri-stone right here, again, not to be confused with dry stone.  A tri-stone means that there are three different phases; coarse, medium, and fine, and then in this basin you’re going to want to have oil.  Again, you don’t want to use just any kind of oil, or cooking oil, or vegetable oil because that will ruin the porous texture of your stone itself.  Instead you’re going to want to use a sharpening stone oil which is essentially a mineral oil.  Now that’s what you’re going to want to have in your basin so that way it’s a nice lubricant for your abrasive to grind a new edge.

There’s also whetstones not to be confused with wet.  Whet is whet meaning sharpening.  Again, there are other stones out there as well.  There are ceramic stones that are pretty non-porous and they don’t need any lubrication.  That is probably the closest thing to a dry stone that you can get, dry stone.  Also, there are diamond-plated stones which is basically a brick of steel with diamond studs within it.  Again, that could be considered a dry stone because you don’t need lubricants for those two kinds of surfaces; however, any other kind of abrasive stone other than ceramic or diamond, you are going to want to use some sort of mineral oil lubricant.

Again, there are also some water stones out there, and those you’re going to have to soak the stone itself.  They take special instructions, and you’re going to want to soak that stone for a half hour before you actually start grinding on that.

Alright, so now we’re actually going to sharpen our knife via this whetstone we have here.  Again, I have my mineral oil.   We’ll just lubricate this stone a little bit so that way it gets nice and lubricated.  It’s nice that this nice stone has a particular gasket to keep it in place on the table itself.  Again, when sharpening on a stone same thing like the honing rod, two things you’re going to want to worry about is the angle and the abrasiveness.  The abrasiveness on this particular stone has two kinds of grit.  Think of it like sand paper.  You’ve got a 400 grit and a 1,000 grit,  So you’ve got coarse and fine. 

And again, from there just like the honing rod, you’re going to want to make consistent strokes simultaneously across the stone as well as simultaneously across the blade itself.  Again, we’re trying to create a beveled edge.  So you’ll put it here, press firmly, and with your fingers you’re going to want to keep that blade intact with the abrasive surface, and push forward as you slide across the knife.  Obviously, this stone is a little bit short for me and I didn’t quite get all the way across my blade.  And again, you should alternate each time between front and back. 

So now that we have our newly sharpened knife, grinded a new blade and a new bevel, we should be able to dice right through this tomato much easier just like that. 

Again, that was knife maintenance and care with Chris Tavano at Tundra Restaurant Supply.  Thank you and come again.

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7 Tips to Help Tackle the School Summer Cleaning Rush

Mop bucket in the closet - time to clean!

It may be summer break for the kids, but that doesn’t mean that the school closes down for the season; in fact, for custodians and janitors, it’s the time when they can be the most productive.  The kids aren’t around to continue to clean-up and sanitize after, and there’s a big empty building waiting to be cleaned.

However, the truth is there’s a lot of space and rooms in a school and without planning things out, it can be overwhelming.  Here are a few tips we thought may help you organize the school summer cleaning rush.

1. Know the School.  How many rooms are there?  What are the square feet of each of those rooms?  How many custodians are able to help?  With this information, you can at least write down how many classrooms you have, how many bathrooms, and how many larger rooms there are.

2. Know the Rooms. Each room type is going to have its own needs – some rooms have tile, some have carpet, some need to be waxed, some need to be stripped, etc.  So when cleaning the rooms, you’ll want to know exactly what you need to bring along so you’re not lugging around more than you need.  After you know what each of the rooms needs are, write a list down, and try to get a rough estimate of how long it will take to clean each room.  A classroom deep clean may take 6 hours to complete; whereas, a single bathroom may only take an hour.  With simple math, you can see how 6 classrooms and 2 single stall bathrooms could be cleaned in a 40 hour work week.

3. Checklists.  If you’re a veteran at what you do, I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t need any checklists, I got this girl!”  Well, that may be true, but your knowledge is meant to be shared.  Create a list, and perfect it overtime so that others can learn what it is that’s expected of them when they clean the facility.

4. Don’t Tackle it all at Once. If you live in a small school district, it may be easy to get the entire building clean in as little as a month, but for larger schools, it may be easier to section of the school by weeks, or months during the summer.  Do grade by grade, floor by floor, or wing by wing… whatever makes sense to you.  Just don’t get overwhelmed with all of it – take a deep breath.

5. Get the Right Cleaning Supplies. A lot of schools are turning to a green cleaning system, which is good for everyone; regardless, before you get started with cleaning, you’ll need to make sure you have the right cleaning supplies in stock so you’re not running out last minute to gather supplies.

6. Organize. Like in any building or home, periodically we’ve got to look at re-organizing closets, shelves, and cabinets.  This is the perfect time to get things back in order so you can start fresh when the new school year begins.

7. Evaluate Equipment Condition. There’s a lot of equipment placed throughout the school, but regular maintenance is essential in making sure all of that equipment stays up and running when busy time rolls around again.  Use the summer as a time to run through the big and small equipment to see where repairs and maintenance upkeep can be done.  It’s always good to stock up on needed parts too, just in case something stops working when you need it the most.

Are you a custodian that works in a school? What summer cleaning tips have you found to help get through the summer?

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And We’re Back… Better Than Ever!

If you visited us as our site went down on the night of July 25th, you probably got a taste of what our new site was going to look like.  A very small sample indeed, but as our maintenance page was up, our developers worked hard to get the new site up!

Hard at work getting the new Tundra site up!

New website launches call for tiki torches, sombreros, and a little head scratching.

What You Can Expect

We cleaned house with the new site.  We tried to bring our customers an experience that helped them navigate the site easier, learn about our services, and who we are.   Here’s a few of those fun features…

Stationary Search Bar. The search bar at the top of the site will always be there as you scroll around.  And that search bar includes important information that can help you easily contact us or chat with us, sign in to your account, get help, and visit your shopping cart.

Category Pages.  We now have popular items at the bottom of the product pages, links at the top to helpful articles and posts, faceted navigation so you can narrow down your search, and less clicks to reach the products you’re looking for.

Product Grid Pages. These pages also have faceted navigation on the left side of the screen, interactive breadcrumb so you can easily go back in navigation, larger images, and callouts so you know exactly what items are quick ship items and new items.

Take a look at our new product pages on

Product Pages. We are now able to support multiple images for our products (look for more to be added soon), social buttons, help section, and related products.

My Account. Now when you login, you’ll have all the information located on one page – payment method, shipping address, contact information, helpful links, and order history.  You can even search by your order number.

Checkout Process. A new shipping policy that lowers rates across the board – that means more money in your pocket!  And from shopping cart to check-out, it only takes 3 steps!

Co-Branded Sites. For our customers that have co-branded sites, you’ll also find that things are much, much cleaner; making it way easier to navigate to the products you’re looking for.

Content. There’s nothing better than launching a beautiful new site with content that mirrors its marketing and branding efforts.  The good news is that we found our voice!  I’m sure you’ve started picking up on it on The Back Burner blog, but that same voice can be seen throughout our site now.

Our Culture.  We’re super excited about our new About Us section.  We went from only 3 pages on our old site, to a whopping 16 on the new site!  You can learn about our culture, fun facts about us, testimonials, and current job openings.

Design Center. Our Design Center also got a big build-out!  We went from 1 dedicated page to 9!  You can learn about our designers, see our portfolio, and soon be able to dream about your own restaurant design!

Look at those nice images.  Those are nice images.

Imagery. Speaking of finding our voice, we also started the process of cleaning up our images.  We hope that you’ll find that the images are sharp, clean, and, sometimes, a little fun.

Security. The entire site is now under HTTPS with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which is a web protocol that ensures that as your shop, browse, and even checkout your visit with us will be safe and secure.

Now it’s Your Turn

Go to the site and explore.  See all the new things we have to offer, and let us know what you think.  We’re always looking for new ways to bring more to the table, and would love to hear from you.  And, make sure you visit our new 404 page, one of my personal favorites!

*As a side note, I’d like to thank Brennan (one of our awesome developers) for his midnight Taco Bell run.  What would we have done without those awesome midnight munchies!

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How to Hone a Knife [Video]

Trying to figure out if your knives need to be honed or sharpened?  In our upcoming video series, we’ll show you exactly what you need to know to keep your favorite kitchen tools sharp.  Our first few videos we’ll cover knife care and maintenance, then move into what different knives are used for cutting different foods.  With that, we say without further ado, here’s our first video on how to hone a knife.

Video Transcribe

Chris Tavano: Hello! Welcome to Tundra Restaurant Supply. I’m Chris Tavano, and I’m going to be taking you through some knife care and maintenance today. Today we’re going to be talking about the differences between honing and sharpening; and the different kinds of stones for sharpening, as well a,s the different kinds of steels and rods for honing.

When you’re honing, we got to think about what’s going on with the blade itself. When you have a nice sharp blade, it should look like this. Nice and even on both sides. Then there is a bevel. That is what we call this angle that’s going to the tip.

What happens as you use your knife and it wears down, that beveled tip starts to turn a little bit more blunt and starts to be a little more rectangular. Also, what can happen is that tip will create burrs. You tend to see a lot more metal fragments and inconsistencies or jagged edges on the knife edge itself.

What honing is going to do is remove those burrs and shape your blunt edge back into a nice beveled tip. However, the difference with sharpening now is when those burrs and jagged edges get too large as well as your blunt edge too big to where you can’t cut through a tomato or a lemon or an onion. That’s when you’re actually going to want to sharpen your knife and grind it down to a whole new blade creating a new beveled edge.

Now we’re going get into details of honing your knife and what honing rods are. Right here, we have a typical honing rod, which is a round shape. They come in many different shapes. Again, this one is another honing rod with an oval shape. There are also honing rods that are round, comes with a helical cut. What that means is the grip on the rod itself is in a spiral fashion to give it more abrasiveness.

Also keep in mind, honing rods are made of different materials. This one, for instance, stainless steel much more abrasive than the knife so that way it can … much more abrasive and harder than the knife. That way it can actually shape the blade itself.

This one, this oval one, is actually diamond-plated. Anything that involves diamond is also going to do a little bit of sharpening, but you’re not quite sharpening as if you would with a stone itself. Again, these are called honing rods. They’re first purpose is honing your blade. Again, if you have a diamond in it, it does a little bit o sharpening, but don’t count on it.

How do you distinguish what kind of sharpness your blade has, and does it need honing or sharpening? Great way is a tomato. Somewhat overused. It gets a little cut up at the first beginning bite through the skin of the tomato. This blade, if you think about it, is still fairly sharp. We could use a typical honing steel rod. Again, then if your blade is slightly dull, you’re going want it, you can also use a diamond rod. That way you can get a little bit of sharpness on and grinding on your blade. Then if your blade is totally blunt and you can’t even get through the skin of the tomato, you’re going to want to sharpen your blade all the way.

We’re using a steel round honing rod. Then you’re going to want to think about an angle on German knives. Typically the angle of the bevel to the blade is about 20 to 22 degrees. Then on Japanese knives, the blades are little bit thinner, but they’re also a little bit stronger. Those angles go to about 12 to 15 degree.

Again, we’re using a German blade so we’re just going to go for a rough 20 to 22 cut. Best way to do that is put your blade parallel with the rod itself. That’s 90 degrees, and you’re going to think 45. Then bring it back to the half of the 45. That’s roughly 22 ½. From there, you want to think about a nice consistent stroke. The stroke you want to take is from the top of the rod to the bottom of the rod, but simultaneously on the bias from the heel of your blade to the tip of the blade, all in one simultaneous motion. Then rotate on the next side. Keep rotating back and forth, left and right, until you made a significant amount of passes, probably about 12.

Now that we have a nice reshaped blade from honing our knives, we can see that this will get to the tomato a little bit better. Keep in mind, if honing did not quite do the job that you were looking for and you’re still having difficulties cutting through your tomatoes and onions, you might want to think about trying to sharpen it with a sharpening stone.

Last but not least are little bit more of the handheld honing devices themselves. I tend to think this is a little bit more dangerous, but that’s all up to you. Mostly, this one that is handheld because you’re actually preening the blade towards your fingers. This is a very nice one. It comes with two grips as well, a fine and a coarse. Again, same thing applies. You’re going to want to put your blade in there, keep a nice, firm pressure, and make a consistent stroke all the way back. The nice thing about this one is it has the angled pre-determined for you.

They also make this version in electric as well. That way, you don’t have to do much work yourself especially if you need a lot of work done to your blade. Also keep in mind, these two devices were really made for honing. Unless they have a diamond steel within them, like we mentioned earlier, it does do a little bit of sharpening, but, again, these are designed for honing. The real sharpeners out there are stone and grinders.

Again, I’m Chris Tavano and this is Tundra Restaurant Supply with knife honing and maintenance. 

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Locking Blade NEMA Plug & Receptacle Configurations

At the end of June I released an article with a chart for Straight Blade NEMA Plug & Receptacle Configurations. Though this was a great idea (no need to thank me), I was missing one important piece of the NEMA puzzle – Locking Blade NEMA Plug & Receptacle Configurations!  So, here you are, our colorful and straightforward NEMA plug & receptacle configuration chart for Locking Blades. If you aren’t sure how to read the plug codes, check out the NEMA Nomenclature.

Click on image for larger view.

 View a chart of NEMA Locking Blade Configurations

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Understanding Common Safety Certifications

When searching for a new piece of equipment, or similar food service necessity, consumers often look for recognizable safety certifications to help sway their decision. Aside from the sought after “Made in the USA” stamp of authentication, certain common safety certifications are like gold stars on possible purchases. Trekking the extra mile as a manufacturer to get these gold stars goes a long way in the eyes of consumers, and there are a handful of well-known, third-party certifications that make all the difference.

Below I’ll walk you through the following common safety certifications (ordered by most recognizable to least recognizable:

  • NSF
  • ANSI
  • UL
  • CE
  • CSA
  • ETL
  • Energy Star

Disclaimer:  Some safety certifications are not required by law, depending on your state or city’s stipulations. Be sure to check with your local municipality to determine what certifications are absolutely necessary before making a purchase.


Safety Certification Mark

The NSF mark is the most widely recognized safety certification decorating food service equipment today. Assigned by NSF International, a certifier “dedicated to being the leading global provider of public health and safety-based risk management solutions,” the NSF label promises consumers that a particular manufacturer has passed highly detailed safety requirements as outlined by the not-for-profit organization. This includes a product assessment of design and construction, a material evaluation of anything that comes in contact with food, and even performance testing where applicable. Additionally, manufacturers who are awarded an NSF certification have their facilities audited unannounced to ensure compliance.

One caveat when it comes to NSF certifications: Often manufacturers will label a piece of equipment with “Certified to NSF standards,” stating that the unit meets NSF requirements, but no official NSF testing has actually taken place. Always looks for the NSF mark to be 100% certain.


Safety Certification Mark

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and its certification often goes hand-in-hand with the NSF mark. Granted, the two are completely separate entities, but many consumers see an ANSI certification to be on par with one from NSF. Like NSF, ANSI has been creating and maintaining nationally recognized norms and guidelines regarding food service products for decades. The company’s ANS (American National Standards) have provided ratings, dimensions, test methods, performance and safety standards, and terminology to hundreds of industries.


Safety Certification Mark

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certifications cover not only product safety, but also testing of systems and services. While the UL mark is often associated with safety, the company specializes in setting standards with which to gauge and validate performance, sustainability, and environmental health. Following the ANSI continuous maintenance standards, the basic UL Listed mark deals solely with safety, but there are a handful of other well-known UL certifications that pertain to other regions and specifications. These include the C-UL (Canada), Classified UL, Gas-Fired UL, UL EPH, Water Quality Mark, and Plumbing Mark.


Safety Certification Mark

The CE marking (formerly the EC marking) was set forth by the European Commission and signifies that a product conforms to European laws or directives in regards to safety, health, and the environment. The marking is required to facilitate trade in the European Economic Area. What sets the CE Marking apart from many other certifications is that CE conformity is usually done through self-declaration as opposed to a formal inspection. Additionally, a CE Marking does not ensure compliance with North American safety standards in any way, and additional certification may be desired by US consumers.


Safety Certification Mark

A standalone CSA mark from CSA International indicates that a piece of equipment or product is primarily certified to Canadian standards. That said, if a CSA mark is surrounded by “C” and “US” or has a “NRTL/C” label underneath the symbol the product is certified to both US and Canadian standards. The certification focuses on safety and/or performance, and CSA International boasts that its mark covers applicable standards from ANSI, NSF, UL, CSA, and others.


Safety Certification Mark

Like the other certifications on the list, the ETL mark is a third-party certification that confirms proof of compliance with certain standards. The ETL mark is appointed by Intertek when a product has been tested and approved to be in line with their electrical, gas, and other safety standards for North America. The company says it tests to UL, ANSI, CSA, ASTM, NFPA, and NOM (Mexico) standards.

Energy Star

Energy Star LogoAn Energy Star stamp of approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) voluntary program is a little different than your common safety certification. Being Energy Star approved means a piece of equipment, establishment, or operation meets specific emission and energy output standards. The program’s goal is to help reduce energy consumption as well as limit pollution and improve energy security. Earning an Energy Star rating ensures that a manufacturer has tested their product in an EPA-recognized laboratory and have subjected themselves to “off-the-shelf” verification testing every year.

A Few Other Reads

As mentioned above, depending on your local laws regarding state and city requirements, some safety certifications may not be necessary. Always consult your local municipality and health advisory regulations before deciding NSF, ANSI, UL, CE, CSA, or ETL certifications are something you don’t need.

Here are a few resources to help you along the way:

NSF Standards

NSF Product and Service Listings

UL Safety Standards

CSA Marks & Usage Guidelines

Earning the Energy Star Label

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Chalk My Life – Tundra’s Story [Video]

Nothing gets me more excited to tell a story or write a blog post than the passion of others.  I was thrilled that we were all able to work together to tell Tundra’s story Draw Chalk My Life style.

We started by interviewing Michael Lewis and Rob Fenton, our founders, and Andrew Call was able to pull together a two-part blog post from those interviews: part 1 and part 2.  But we knew that we wanted to do more – enter the amazing chalk art skills of Stephen Garcia.  Stephen’s (pronounced Steven) art can be seen on the big black chalkboard anytime you come into our showroom, and we thought he’d be the best person to help us draw out this story – great hunch, huh!

Video Transcription


Michael Lewis: Hi, I’m Michael Lewis. I’m the original founder of Tundra Specialties. I’m sitting here today with my co-founder, Rob Fenton, who came on a few months after we started. I ran a company in New Jersey that was in the restaurant supply business. I sold my interest in that business and came out here, and therein became the birth of Tundra.

As I was leaving my last company, in 15 minutes I wrote down the values of what I, with starting over, what did I want to take with me from the prior experience. That’s where the 13 values came from. They’re unedited. The short answer is we had a high integrity for customers, for vendors, for employees, for product. We were going to deliver a level of service that we believed was not available up to that point.

Rob Fenton: One of the values is having “ways” and not policies. It wasn’t the policy, it was the way to take care of the customer. I came from a B2B application, and we took the B2B concept and applied it to a restaurant industry that at the point in time didn’t have that much focus on customer service, in our opinion.

Michael Lewis: We started very fundamentally, it’s the old story of starting in your garage. It literally did start in my garage, and was able to walk around the streets of Boulder and just introduce myself and at least say, “We have these in stock and we can get a whole lot more.”

The product line just grew from there, but it all came out of a concept that, the idea that the parts availability to restaurants with only through service companies, and service companies needed to install things, and it became a very pricey thing. There was a lot of items that restaurants could actually install themselves.

In order to grow, we could do one of two things:

  1. We could open branches in other parts of the country.
  2. The other way was the advent of the internet.

That was starting to have something to it. At that time, Ryan [Lewis] came aboard and was given the responsibility of developing our first website. Then we went on to the second one. With each one we were able to expand the amount of product we put on. We were able to get deeper into the customer world. We made a commitment to the web before the first site launched.

Rob Fenton: Our biggest concern, certainly the first ten years, was not how fast can we grow. The question was how can we keep up? How do we maintain, how do we keep our company values, which were important to us, and still provide the level of service that we were becoming known for?

Michael Lewis: What we did was listen. The product growth over the 20 years has gone from parts to smallwares to equipment to disposables to textiles. That was all customer pulled. Over the 20 year history, we’ve become a complete restaurant supply house, including installation and design services, as well as, providing any product a restaurant would need.

Rob Fenton: I’m proud to say that we have never lost a customer. Once we have developed a relationship, we’ve never lost one.

Michael Lewis: I really see Tundra as being probably one of the most significant restaurant suppliers in the country. To be able to be in the United States, to be able to distribute all the products we have in the most efficient way, and have one of the easiest ways for customers to transact business with that. I’m not saying we’re the largest, go back to a word I use is significant, whether that also means the largest, we’ll see.


Thanks to Nathan Combs for his awesome videography work, and putting up with me as I get excited to tell our story in a fun way!

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Restaurants & Kids

Restaurants that are kid-friendly, and those that aren't.

Yes, I know there are restaurants that cater to kids and restaurants that don’t.  I’m a mother to two awesome little boys – online I call them Max and White Bread – and we typically have to pick our restaurants based on whether the boys are joining Mom and Dad, or not.  So, I know that these “kids in restaurants” posts need to be in three parts:

My original article was going to be on making a more kid-friendly restaurant, but as I started talking about this subject, I learned that people are really passionate about this topic.  And I get it, even as a Mom.

I’ve been in a restaurant with screaming kids, and you think to yourself, “Seriously, are you not going to take your screaming kid out to the car until they are done with their fit?  The rest of us are trying to enjoy our food!”

I’ve also been the parent whose kid is screaming, and I’m like, “Ugh, okay, let’s go outside until you cool off and we’ll start over.”  But I’ve also learned that I can teach my children manners and choose restaurants that are great for them, that are kid-friendly.

We also have restaurants that we refuse to bring our kids too.  Those types of restaurants are for when Mom and Dad are dining alone, and we’re okay with that.

I’ve also been a waitress in a restaurant and know what it’s like to serve a table full of kids – there’s likely to be a mess, a lower bill (hence a lower tip too), and screaming (oh, the screaming).  But again, parents and servers can learn a thing or two to make the entire experience better.

With that, I’ll end by saying that I hope that you get a chance to read each of the articles posted before sounding off.  I know we all have passion in one of these areas, but we all live our own lives and can share compassion for one another – play nice folks.

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How Kid-Friendly Restaurants Can Better Cater To Kids

You got the crayons, the coloring mats, and the fun kids cups, but then stopped there.  There are so many other things you can do to make your restaurant more kid-friendly (yes, more).  Creating a little fun and teaching your servers what being kid-friendly means can really help increase sales in the end.

This doesn’t mean you have to become a fun zone, you can keep your style; just add a little spice, a little flavor, and you’ll turn your restaurant from a place that serves kids meals to a place the kids beg to come back to.  Here are some great ideas that I’ve seen some restaurants do right when it comes to being kid-friendly.

Toys & Games

1. Fun Area & Chalkboard Wall

Fun toys and chalkboard wall help make this restaurant kid-friendly

No, you don’t have to have a complete game room like in the picture above, but these are great distractions for small guests.   I love how this restaurant created a nook in the backend of the building, so that other non-kid diners could still enjoy their meal in peace towards the other end of the building.

The chalkboard wall is easy – some paint and chalk, and you’re set.  You can even wash it clean and do your own doodles on it.  Just remember that little artist might think it’s fun to scribble all over your doodles, so don’t get upset about that.  Also, make sure to get the big chalk so that little ones don’t choke on the small pieces of chalk.

2. Make Your Kids Menu Fun

Make the kids menu fun to help little diners.

Kids like to be independent, and if they can order their own food, well, at least at the beginning of the meal they’ll be entertained/preoccupied if your menus are written for them.  I love this kid friendly menu that blogger Kimberly came up with (she has free printables too), but if you don’t want to waste time cleaning them, just turn them into paper ones to throw away.

And it doesn’t have to be just about the food, include some games, jokes, and fun facts.  I love how The Kitchen Next Door does their kids menus.

3. Restaurant Bingo!

Help the kids have fun in the restaurant with bingo!

These bingo cards are fun and can be changed up a bit to include different items – even branded just for your restaurant.  My kids would sit well past waiting-for-food-to-come time and end up playing right through the meal!

Anyone else notice how dated that phone was?  So 90’s, pssh.

4. Awesome Coloring Pages

Awesome coloring pages for kids in the restaurant that even the adults will like.

I don’t know a kid out there that wouldn’t be occupied with these cool coloring pages; in fact, I think the kid in all of us would have fun coloring these.  Make sure you have fine tip markers for the small areas; although, crayons would be interesting for those young scribblers.

5. I-Spy Bottle

Easy to make I-Spy bottles to help entertain kids in a restaurant.

These neat I-Spy Jars could keep kiddos occupied for hours (well, at least a good 20 minutes)!   The best part about them is that they’re cheap to construct, easy to make, and can be themed around the food you’re serving, i.e. if you serve organic-food-to-farm style food, throw in little veggies (plastic of course), or if you’re an Italian style eatery, find some little toys that remind you of Italy.

6. Shut The Box

Shut the box is an easy game to have on-hand when kids visit a restaurant.

Most of us have heard of the dot game (and I’m not bashing it, it’s still a fun game that we all enjoy), but have you heard of Shut the Box?  My life changed when I learned about this game; seriously, it’s enough entertainment to keep the kids busy until the food comes to the table.  With my kids, we reserve this game for restaurants only so that they don’t bored of playing it all the time at home (mom tip, not necessarily a restaurant tip).

Gracious Servers

7. Snacks, Always Snacks

Great idea to bring out bread ahead of time to help hungry little eaters stay occupied.

Before your servers even take drink orders, they already know if kids are sitting at their table, so encourage them to bring out edibles as they approach the table – bread, crackers, chips, whatever.  When I used to waitress, all I had available to give to kiddos was oyster crackers, but that was enough to keep them occupied until I could get their drinks.

8. Special Requests

Great family dining that also offers American food.

One of our favorite Mexican restaurants, Azteca, has an enormous menu and tons of great food.  They have the perfect environment for us to visit, and they know that there are picky eaters even amongst the adult diners.  Yes, they have an authentic kids menu with Mexican dishes, but they also have Gringo Dishes for those diners that just like chicken (pollo) nuggets.

No matter how much I beg my kids to try a tostada or enchilada, they always go for the American plates.  They aren’t trying to be picky (and they’d likely eat anything we chose for them, if we made them eat another menu item), but kids like things like hamburgers and hot dogs, and sometimes it’s a hamburger and hot dog type of day (even if it is at a Mexican Restaurant).

This was a long tip, but my point was that when it comes to kids, be polite when it comes to special requests.  If your trying to teach them different tastes, I get that as a Mom, but if they don’t want red sauce on their noodles (and it’s not too much to ask), can we just get plain noodles with butter and parmesan?

9. Cook For The Kids First

They are impatient, so kids should be fed as soon as the food is done - Mom & Dad can wait.

I can wait for my food, but the kids get impatient.  As soon as the food is ordered, your servers should be putting high priority on the kids’ menu choices.  Mac and cheese takes minutes to make, so if it’s done before the parents meal, ask them if they want it early… they’ll thank you for it!

10. Don’t Discriminate

Yes, we know that you hate kids in your resturant, but you're kid-friendly, aren't you?

If the restaurant is clearly kid-friendly, you and your servers shouldn’t get upset when kids walk through the door.  If you do, you (or your servers) need to find another job.  Besides, like Andrew Knowlton said, “After all, you’re probably going to be in the same boat as I am in a few years.”

And for the sake of all humanity, please, don’t discriminate against people with special needs.  My son has a disability, I know what it feels like when you stare at us uncomfortably (and how do you think that makes a little boy feel?).  I’m not at your restaurant for you to cater to his needs, that’s why I’m there too – I’ll take care of him.  If you’re curious about what he has, I’m okay with you asking me, just don’t be rude, okay?

Pinterest Fun

A lot of these ideas we were able to pin over on our Pinterest board, “For the Kiddos,” in addition to some fun, kid-friendly recipes.  Have fun pinning!

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