Many restaurants claim to be “kid friendly” and welcoming to families. But if you really think about it, what exactly does it mean?
As I mom, there’s a laundry list of givens:
- I expect there to be a changing station in the bathroom. Huge bonus if there’s one in the men’s room as well.
- I expect there to be high chairs and booster seats.
- I expect there to a children’s menu that my kids can color on while we are waiting on the food.
- I expect a kid’s cup with a lid.
That being said, I love when a restaurant surprises me with gestures that only parents can appreciate. It’s these little things that get talked about the next week at Gymboree or while waiting at the flagpole till the kids get released from school.
Here are just a few, affordable ways restaurants can raise their “kid friendly” status and have parents, grandparents, and kids talking about how great they are:
- Step stool in the bathrooms
This $8 Rubbermaid step stool creates independence. My 2 year old can now reach the faucet, wash her own hands, while I hold the baby carrier and wash my hands. With this small investment, you’ve potentially circumvented an “I do myself” meltdown, calmed a parent, and made the bathroom experience with 2 children not a nightmare.
- Basket of Books/Games
A community basket of books near the hostess stand at a restaurant is a clever way to engage kids after the coloring sheet is done. Yes, parents probably have a few books in tow for this very reason; however, the 4 year old that can get up from the table, choose his own book from the community basket, and return to the table independently, now has a JOB to do. It takes his mind off of waiting on food and gives him responsibility: reading the book, taking care of the book, and returning the book to the basket when he’s finished with it. Offering a wide range of books and some inexpensive games can foster family time at the table.
- Crayons Plus
Spotted this crayon container at Juanita Greenburg’s and immediately thought: this is great! Restaurants save money by not throwing away unused crayons and teach children to be responsible for something that doesn’t belong to them. The box itself turns into an activity for little ones: put the crayons in, take them out, close the box, open the box, count the crayons, sort the crayons. The box could also store a few stickers that would get the creative juices flowing for a child that enjoys coloring.
- Drinks Included
The fastest way for a restaurant to be deemed not kid friendly by a group of moms is to have this phrase tacked on your kid’s menu: Drinks Not Included in the price of the children’s meal. Ouch! Seeing the drink included tag on a menu is like whispering to your customer, “we got your back.”
- The Bonus
I recently crossed paths on Twitter with Scotty Wise who owns several Scotty’s Brewhouse locations in Indiana. One peek at the kid’s menu and a huge smile came across my face. In addition to their kids eat free offering, they say this: Moms and Dads, we will cut your kids’ food into bite sizes in the kitchen for you, just ask! This gesture will quickly get your restaurant in the favorite category among families. It’s something you don’t expect but is so appreciated.
When in doubt, ask a mom. Moms are the ultimate resource for what's considered Kid Friendly. Being resourceful on a budget just comes with the territory.