[twitter]I don’t get why kids are not welcome in all restaurants. It’s a shame that some places have to go so far as to actively ban children from attending. The vast majority of parents realize things change when we have kids, and we pick and choose our evening meal entertainment very carefully.
Still, some restaurants ban kids because of a few bad apples, while some other restaurants go so far as to offer entice parents with discounts just because our kids behaved well for 60-90 minutes. Caught in the middle are reasonable people with reasonable expectations for what should happen when they take their kids out.
We have a list of a few restaurants that we like to rotate around when a big event needs celebrating, or we just don’t feel like cooking. While 1 or 2 are not your ‘typical family restaurant,’ we usually hit up the places with a kids’ menu and special accommodations for families.
Lately, the boys have been making the request to visit Boston Pizza. It’s easy to see why. Our neighborhood store has a magician 2 nights a week, the kids’ menu activity book is rich and filled with fun stuff, and … it’s pizza!
Keeping the kids happy is just the beginning of the family friendly restaurant experience though. I canvassed some parents and asked them what they want at family restaurants. I found 13 things parents want (so far), add yours in the comments:
Patient, Understanding Staff
If your restaurant has a kids’ menu (1), or a kids eat free night (2), you know you’re going to be getting a lot of us family types. I know much of the staff aren’t parents, but if you can dig into your bag of babysitting tricks and read the tea leaves (3), that would be awesome.
That means bring the kids food out first (4). “The sooner you get the grub in front of them, the sooner they will stop trying to leave their chairs and run into the kitchen to play with the deep fryer,” says John Kinnear of Ask Your Dad Blog. Smiling at them, talking with them, treating them like VIP customers will go a long way. And yes, if I can afford 2 kids, I can afford to tip you well for making my dinner out not feel like punishment.
A Menu With Choice
“My sons actually have pretty sophisticated palettes for not quite being 2,” says Spike Zelenka of Double Trouble Daddy. Yes, something basic and plain should be there, but at the same time, go for something off your main menu and make the portion smaller (5). Appetizer menus are a great place for parents to pick out fun foods for good eaters, but including some mains in smaller sizes would be a good option – not every kid demands deep fried fingers and fries.
Kid Sized Accoutrements
Sure, high chairs and boosters (6) are a good start, but what about steppy stools in the bathroom (7) so the kids can reach to wash their hands? Change tables in the men’s room (8) shows you care about families too. Most family restaurants are on top of these items.
There’s one thing, however, that is universally ignored by restaurants that welcome kids, save for IKEA‘s cafeteria – kid sized cutlery (9). When the tables are set, and the roll-ups are laid, they all have knives and big adult sized forks and spoons. I get why they do that, but at the same time, having a bin with smaller utensils for smaller hands and mouths would be wonderful (so we can stop packing our own along each time we go out).
This is where the magician, balloon animal guy comes in (10). Even if it’s just once a week, having someone wandering the room for the 5-7 peak family time is absolutely wonderful.
Having engaging kids’ menus (11) also helps along with crayons. Our boys love the Boston Pizza menus as there are pages and pages of mazes, word searches, a secret message to be decoded, connect the dots and more.
While Don Re of Don of all Trades offers “iPhones or iPads so the kids quit asking to use mine,” the last thing I want to have to do is hand over an iPhone to one of my kids to chill them out, or worse, have them bring their own, with headphones, and have all of us tune out. We’re supposed to be out as a family, let’s be out as a family and have fun together.
Include dessert (12) in the kid’s meal. Make it ice cream, or chocolate, or something that parents will want to have too (13) – just something. And if you squeeze it out just a little bit bigger than kid portion, you’re winning over the parents because we get a little slice of dessert without having to chow down on a full order and feel guilty after.
I don’t think we’re asking for much, really. Most parents know to keep our kids out of the white tablecloth places, but there’s a huge industry built about bringing families in for dinner.
Meet us in the middle with these small requests, and we’ll be back again. And again. And again. And again. Because the kids will have had a blast, and we like it when our kids have fun and we’re not stressed about it.
I’m sure I’m missing a few, what do you want from a family restaurant when you take the kids out? Add it in the comments, and be sure to pick up a Boston Pizza Kids Card to take your family out to BP. Details below: