Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Are you or aren’t you?

Are you kid friendly or not kid friendly? That is the question. There are a few kid friendly criteria your restaurant should meet before targeting families as your customers. Go beyond providing two crayons and a coloring sheet to providing a fully thought through experience for your diner.

 Just because a restaurant has a kids menu does not make it child friendly and the same thing goes for a store selling children’s clothes. Have you thought through you customer experience? Does your restaurant have the appropriate baby gear to meet your customer’s needs? Do you think about the parent’s experience dining with a child?

As a new parent I had not thought of these things as necessities till recently but the restaurants that successfully meet the following needs are my top choices. Here is the recipe:

  •          Call Ahead Waiting. Waiting for an hour and a half before you get to the table is a recipe for disaster for the parents and the fellow diners. Children no matter what the age, have short attention spans, are frequently hungry and almost always tired and cranky. Parents have a small window of time to get in, dine and get the kids home. Help out by offering call ahead waiting. 
  •          Comfortable Tables. I don’t mean cushy seats. I am talking about a table away from the drafty door as little kids are sensitive to the temperature. Also a table not in the walkway. As graceful as people think they are both wait staff and other patrons bump tables and chairs. Let’s not run the risk of someone knocking the baby carrier over or waking a sleeping child.
  •          Secure Seating. I don’t want to just sit the baby carrier on the seat and hope that no one bumps the chair. Two plus a high chair, please. I don’t want just any high chair; I want the baby sling that can accommodate the baby carrier or the high chair that can be flipped over. Both of these options will keep baby safe and secure while mommy and daddy enjoy a nice glass of wine and a tasty dinner.
  •          Kids First. Restaurants that bring the kids meals before the parents’ entrees get brownie points. This is a simple and much appreciated gesture. There are a few key reasons why this is needed. Kids are hungry from when they walk in the door. Keep them calm by keeping them busy…eating. Parents can get the kids fed and then when their meal arrives they can actually enjoy what they ordered without stopping every few seconds to cut up chicken tenders.
  •         A Changing Station. If you have a kids menu, obviously you are expecting kids in your restaurant. Have you provided a place for diapers to be changed? I think this should be a part of operating requirements but anyways. Make sure there is a place to change a baby. Having a pedestal sink and no Koala station is not helpful. Get a counter top before I have the urge to use my table as a changing station.

Making your restaurant kid friendly is easy and is not a budget item. Most of your employees probably have kids. Treat them to dinner on the house and ask them to document their experience. Then send them over to your competitor and see how you rank.

This is so important parents that Open Table has begun giving awards for Top 50 Kid Friendly Restaurants., http://www.opentable.com/promo.aspx?pid=386

1 comment:

  1. Love this post! If every restaurant made it a standard to bring out kids food with the appetizer not only would it be more peaceful and enjoyable for the dining parents but for the wait staff too. Doing this would sidestep bored kids wanting to run around or making 10 trips to the bathroom to have an excuse to get up from the table and potentially tripping staff. It would benefit everyone!

    Erica, mommy of two