A large portion of restaurant customers are families with young children, and many of them consider kid-friendliness when choosing an establishment. According to market research, restaurant-goers with children under the age of 12 account for over $17 billion in restaurant spending per year. Parents know how challenging it can be to take little ones into a restaurant. Unless a restaurant offers ways to keep kids happy and entertained, it can be hard for young customers to sit still, and parents may not feel welcome.

If you’re a restaurant owner who wants to appeal to more customers and boost sales, you can benefit from creating a family-friendly atmosphere. You also have plenty of options when it comes to making your restaurant more kid-friendly, no matter the size of your budget or building. In this post, we’ll share kid-friendly business ideas and show you ways to increase restaurant sales. If you make parents and their children feel comfortable and appreciated, you can expect your customers to return many times, and you can enjoy drawing new families to your business.

What Is a Kid-Friendly Restaurant?

A kid-friendly restaurant, in general, is an establishment that welcomes and caters to families and children. Some restaurants are considered kid-friendly because they offer a children’s menu. They might also provide coloring placemats and crayons to keep kids occupied at the table. Some places might even lend toys to children to play with as they wait for their meals to arrive.

Other restaurants are kid-focused, meaning they specialize in creating a special atmosphere just for kids. These restaurants offer a variety of menu items that appeal to young palates and include exciting play areas for children to enjoy. Kids look forward to going to these types of restaurants, and parents enjoy taking their children somewhere made just for families.

How Do You Create a Kid-Friendly Restaurant?

Before you create a kid-friendly restaurant, it helps to think about your goals, budget and customer base first. Consider what your existing customers want and the unique needs they have. Also, think about the type of customers you’d like to attract and how your restaurant’s upgrades can make that happen.

Once you have a clear vision of where you want to be with your family-friendly restaurant, you’ll be ready to explore your options. Here are five family restaurant business ideas to give you a head start.
Upgrade your menu

1. Upgrade Your Menu

Little kids have tendencies to be picky eaters, but that doesn’t mean all children refuse to eat anything other than chicken nuggets and french fries. Some kids like to eat “grown-up” foods, while others don’t have much interest in food at all. The trick is to appeal to a variety of tastes and age ranges and consider what parents want for their kids as well. By upgrading your menu, you can give existing and potential customers greater options and more reasons to visit. Here are some tips:

  • Offer a mix of menu items: You’ll want to create a variety of menu items to appeal to older kids as well as very young children. For example, a 10-year-old may not want to eat the same thing their 4-year-old sibling is ordering. To appeal to older children, you might offer dishes that are similar to adult menu items but have been modified to suit a younger taste. You’ll also want to provide smaller portions for tiny tummies.
  • Keep it simple: Kids generally are more sensitive to different flavors than adults, particularly bitter tastes and spiciness. They also rely on their sense of sight and smell to help them determine if something’s worth eating. Aim to create simple menu options for kids and avoid anything too adventurous regarding flavor.
  • Consider presentation: If a plate of food doesn’t look familiar or appetizing, a child might be more resistant to giving it a chance. You can add a few fun-shaped items or colorful fruits or veggies to the plate and make it more exciting.
  • Offer customization: Kids love to build their own meals. For example, according to a recent survey, 87% of kids like to visit restaurants that allow them to customize their meals. Some restaurants have put “flights” on their kids’ menus to meet the demand for customization. This enables young diners to choose samples of sides, ice cream flavors, dips or other food items. Consider ways you can let little ones design their own meals, and you’ll be bound to have loyal customers.
  • Make it nutritious: Today’s parents want and expect healthy options for their kids. You might have to get creative and find ways to combine nutrition with kid-friendly foods. You could offer a turkey sandwich with sweet potato fries instead of a hot dog with mac and cheese, for example. No matter how you adjust your menu, make sure you offer accommodations for allergies so parents can enjoy peace of mind while they dine.
  • Keep it affordable: Since kids’ menu items come in smaller portions, parents expect to pay smaller prices. Also, consider creating combo meals for kids so that their drink and dessert are included in the price.
  • Provide colorful menus: You can either add a kids’ section to your menu or create an entirely separate menu just for your young customers. If you make a menu just for kids, try to use bright, cheerful colors. You might also incorporate cartoon characters or images of menu items, so little ones can have an easier time deciding.

Lastly, if you have not done this already, consider making your menu available online. That way, parents can check out your menu and figure out what to order for themselves and their kids ahead of time. They’ll appreciate being able to order right away once they sit down at their table.

2. Bring Entertainment to the Table

One of the most crucial elements for millennials and their families is being able to use technology to improve their restaurant experience. This includes TVs and tabletop technology. To meet the demand for entertainment at the table, you might invest in tablets with touchscreen activities and games to keep little ones occupied. You can also use digital games to spread brand awareness. For example, you might incorporate your company’s mascot into a game or activity. Consider choosing tabletop systems that are easy to remove in case a family does not want this form of entertainment.

If you wish to take the non-digital route, there are other ways to offer entertainment at the table. For example, you might provide board games or coloring books and crayons so kids can get creative as they wait to eat.

3. Don’t Forget the Basics

Parents expect kid-friendly restaurants to offer basic amenities. If they don’t, or if they only have a limited supply, parents won’t hesitate to look elsewhere. Therefore, make sure you have essential items, such as:

High chair benefits

  • High chairs: Seventy percent of parents claim they are more likely to visit a restaurant if they have high chairs. Make sure you have plenty of high chairs and booster seats to go around, so babies, toddlers and their parents feel welcome at your restaurant.
  • Changing stations: Seventy-three percent of parents say they will choose a restaurant if they know changing stations are available in the restrooms, and 14% of men say there’s a need for changing stations in men’s rooms. Make sure both men’s and women’s rooms have changing stations so that dads can change diapers, too.
  • Bibs: It’s no secret that kids can be messy eaters. Consider having bibs on hand for parents who forget to bring their own. They’ll appreciate your effort and thoughtfulness, and the bibs won’t break your bank.
  • Cups with lids: Sometimes, no matter how hard parents try to prevent it, spills happen. Fortunately, you and your staff can help prevent big messes by giving kids child-sized cups with lids and straws.

By making sure you have an adequate supply of family-friendly amenities, you’ll create a welcoming environment your customers will value.
Add a play area

4. Add a Play Area

Another way to draw families to your restaurant and increase sales is to add a fun and unique indoor play area. If you offer an exciting way to play, kids who visit your restaurant will ask their parents to take them there again. Considering that over 40% of parents let their kids choose where they should eat, it’s worth focusing on what little ones want the most — to have fun.

A designated play area gives kids a chance to play freely, burn energy and stay happy when they go out to eat. Parents enjoy play areas too because they can relax as they wait for a table or for food to arrive. Just make sure your restaurant’s play area is visible from the tables so parents can always keep an eye on their kids. Also, aim to include play equipment that engages all children, from toddlers to school-age kids. At Soft Play®, we offer a variety of stimulating restaurant playground equipment kids can’t wait to use, such as:

  • Pick & Play™: Pick & Play™ allows you to choose from five fun pre-made products consisting of soft sculpted foam. Products include climbers, ramps and tunnels so kids can develop motor skills while they play with friends. Pick & Play™ is an affordable option that’s ready to be shipped to your restaurant.
  • Soft sculpted foam play areas: If you would like a custom soft foam play area, we’re ready to get to work. We’ll create a unique tailored play space designed specifically for your restaurant’s theme, size and budget. With our standout designs that stimulate the imagination, kids will remember your restaurant and how it’s different from the others.
  • Small play areas: Even if your business doesn’t have a ton of room to spare, you can still add a play area kids love and parents appreciate. Our small play areas offer just as much fun as our large play structures and include slides, climbers, tunnels and more.
  • Themed playgrounds: Want to build an eye-catching themed playground to attract more families? From castles to candy lands, we offer a range of themed playgrounds to help your restaurant create memorable experiences. If you don’t see the theme you want, share your ideas with us, and we’ll design the playground of your dreams.
  • Toddler play spaces: To include a play area designed for toddlers, check out our various accessories, activity panels, soft foam sculptures and fun stand-alone play systems made just for young kids.

Overall, a play area is an excellent investment for your restaurant and will make families eager to come back.

5. Train Your Staff

Friendly service is a major draw for young families with children. Since kids can be challenging customers, it’s important that your staff members are trained in serving families and know how to make them feel comfortable and welcome. You might talk with staff about seating families at larger tables with plenty of room around them, so they can easily use high chairs. Also, encourage staff to be patient with families and supportive of parents as much as possible. Waitstaff should treat tiny customers as they would adults — with respect and consideration. However, they should also consider the parents’ wishes.

Lastly, if you decide to add an indoor playground to your restaurant, make sure you have employees who are trained to work with children and can keep the play area clean.

Benefits of Creating a Kid-Friendly Restaurant

A kid-friendly restaurant makes little ones happy to go out to eat and also brings many benefits to your restaurant. Here are just a few reasons to transform your business into a more family-welcoming space:

  • Attract more customers: In 2018, there were almost 25 million children under the age of 12 in the country. That’s a lot of potential customers you could appeal to, and that’s not even considering their parents. With a kid-friendly restaurant, you can expect to increase traffic flow and attract new customers who are looking for ways to enjoy time with their children.
  • Keep customers coming back: If you make families feel welcome and if they enjoy their time at your restaurant, they are much more likely to return. They are also likely to share news about your restaurant with friends and family members, which can ultimately bring more customers to your business.
  • Increase your return on investment (ROI): Investing in your restaurant to make it more kid-friendly can help your business succeed for many years. For example, if you invest in a quality, durable play area, you can expect to see a long-lasting ROI. 
  • Set your restaurant apart from competitors: The restaurant industry is extremely competitive, and families have seemingly endless options when it comes to finding a place to eat. By creating a kid-friendly restaurant, you make it easy for parents to decide where to go. They’ll eventually realize they can depend on your establishment to provide the experience they hope for.

Contact Soft Play to Build a Kid-Focused Restaurant

There’s no doubt about it — creating a kid-friendly restaurant will attract families and help you gain new customers. One way to make your restaurant stands out from the competition is to add a unique, memorable play area your young customers will love.

Ready to enjoy the benefits of adding a play area to your family restaurant? Reach out to us at Soft Play. We are thrilled to help business owners choose or design durable, creative and inclusive play spaces all ages can enjoy and look forward to. No matter your budget or space needs, we’ll find a custom play solution to help your business attract more families. To learn more about our products and services, contact us today!
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