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KidScore Tips for Restaurant and Eatery Owners

June 7, 2012

With the recent launch of KidScore we’ve received some great feedback from parents and businesses.  We’ve also gotten quite a few questions from restaurant owners on steps they can take to make their restaurant more child-friendly.  We realize not all places want to be kid friendly and there’s nothing wrong with those wishing to cater to adults only, parents need the occasional date night and time away from little ones.   A low KidScore shouldn’t be a thing to shun for places that don’t cater to families and is and is actually a useful tool to customers who want to avoid kids while enjoying dinner out.  For places that want to reach families there are some simple steps owners can take to become more family friendly and reach parents which tend to spend more on average than most other demographics.  In many cases a restaurant can accomplish this for less than $1500; here are some simple tips for restaurants and eateries to improve their KidScore:

  • Menu and Product offering- Having a kids menu with kid prices is a start but having healthy items that kids will like is even better, bonus points for organic and natural ingredients.  Happy kids who eat and enjoy your food equal happy parents coming back.  Nice touches are places that offer free kids menu items for certain age groups.
  • Service- How friendly is your wait staff towards children of all ages?  While you might think they are friendly staff members actions can lead to un-friendly perceptions, parents and children can pick up negative vibes quickly, most often from staff members who aren’t parents themselves.  Does your wait staff greet, try engaging, and acknowledge children with a smile?  Even with babies and toddlers who might not be speaking yet.  The key to going above and beyond is anticipating parent’s needs before they have to ask.  Ask if they need a booster seat, high chair, extra plate, etc… before they have to.  When traveling in Hawaii we found the Hawaiian culture to be extremely kid friendly where wait staff would engage our 1 ½ year old son with smiles, eye contact, and bring out extra plates/silverware (even though we only ordered 2 adult dishes to share but didn’t tell the server) without asking.  They treated him as a person and not a low purchasing customer.  Key is not to get upset over children dropping food, spilling liquid, and making a mess.  In most cases parents will over tip above 20%, I know we always do.
  • Safety- Review the layout and make staff aware of actions that might harm children.  Examples are servers who move hot liquids and food plates close to or above a child.  Placing a sharp (steak) knife in reach of a child and items like large vases, statues, within reach or not super sturdy platform that a small child can knock over.  Get rid of table cloths that a child can pull on.  One 2-month-old baby managed to pull on the table cloth, dumping a pot of scalding water in her lap.  It’s a good idea to serve child beverages in certain types of cups only to avoid mix ups with staff serving alcohol to little ones accidently.  In 2011, Applebee’s was forced to apologize after servers in a Michigan restaurant served a child tequila instead of apple juice. The mother, Taylor Dill-Reese, says she knew something was wrong when her 15-month-old started saying ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye’ to the walls. He was later found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.10, the legal limit in most states.  Remarkably, these mistakes are more common than one might think.
  • Amenities and decor.  At the very basic level places wanting to bring in families should offer up crayons in a cup and a paper place mat with activities.   Printing in black and white 1000 place mats in black and white and a dozen boxes of crayons typically will set you back about $50.  Kid friendly restaurant can also buy used books, toys, and setup a small play area.  A small play area can be setup in less than 25 square feet, popular are rubber mats, toys (avoid chock hazards), bins, and gated area.  We recommend Ikea for safe, sturdy, and great value.  Best spots for play areas tend to be in the back or corner away from the door and where parents can keep an eye on the kids.  Try and select easy to clean toys as we recommend wiping them down at least once a day with heavy usage.  Décor is another way to augment toys to keep kids minds and eyes busy while they eat.  We recommend items and images on walls and ceilings.  It’s best to be creative and compliment the theme of your restaurant and ad items or pictures that can spark conversation and learning.
  • Cleanliness and Sanitation.  Moms have good eyes when it comes to cleanliness and sanitation.  How clean are your restrooms?  Do you have changing tables in both female and male restrooms and check them daily for cleanliness?  Overall it’s important that kitchen and dining room are kept clean.  Wiping down high chairs and booster seats with a bleach wipe after every use and letting parents know when you bring them out would earn bonus points in my book.
  • Fill out our owner form on KidScore, answering questions about your place to ensure we have the most up to date and correct information.

Note:  While the above steps can improve your KidScore.  User feedback and other (not mentioned) items are also factors in your KidScore rating.  If you’re an owner go to the owner page to add information on your place and see your restaurant’s KidScore.

Ali Alami,

CEO and Father of a 2 year old

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