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
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
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!
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
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
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
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).
7. Snacks, Always Snacks
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
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
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
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?
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!