If you’ve worked in the hospitality industry for any period of time you’ll know the most difficult customers can often be the smallest. Nothing elicits groans from wait staff quite like children walking in the door of your venue. Not only are they harder work to keep from disrupting other customers but they can also be the most difficult to create a menu for. Wait staff don’t want children under their feet every two seconds just as much as chefs don’t want their mac and cheese sent back because it has garnish on it.
So how do you create a perfect kids’ menu (and environment) so your customers are happy, your wait staff aren’t stressed and you’re still making a profit? Here are our tips…
This may seem like a no-brainer but kids eat smaller portions, so don’t over cater and see your margins literally get thrown in the bin. Small items like toasted sandwiches have very low price points and kids love them. With lower portion sizes, kids’ menu items can make you money and encourage parents to come back again.
If you think kids’ menus are designed just for kids: you’re wrong. Kids’ menus are also designed for parents. Not to eat, of course, but to calm their conscience and make them feel good about what their kids are eating. You should build your menu with the philosophy that kids’ food should be no less healthy or tasty than adult food. The key here is taking something that kids already love and making it healthier (without them noticing!). Think vegie wraps, natural hot dogs or baked items where they would usually be fried (fish and chips, chicken parmas etc)
Train your staff:
If you’re a typical Australian venue, a high proportion of your wait staff are probably younger university-aged people. They may not have children of their own, but it is important you teach them how to interact with them. Train your staff to be as helpful as possible. This may mean seating a family of four at a table for six so the kids have more room to play without annoying others. Make sure your staff know where the high seats and booster seats (or extra cushions) are. Teach them to treat the kids with the same respect as adult customers – remember they are customers too! If you can make the whole process easier for parents they will be more likely to come back again and again.
Add some fun:
Many venues stock special kids’ packs like pencils and placemats to keep kids entertained. You don’t have to have specific packs for this – cups of pencils and oversized colouring books will do the job (it’s cheaper!). You could also consider adding some fun to your menu – giving children the ability to get involved in the food process. Ordering pizza? Offer them some dough to mould while they are waiting, then bake it while they eat so they go home with a dough creation.
Times are changing. The last generation of children grew up eating at home, but as millennials begin having kids they don’t want to give up their eating-out luxuries so children are much more used to eating out than in the past. With targeted menus, kid-friendly service, entertainment and special offers, clever restaurateurs are generating a whole new customer base and fostering a generation of savvy young eaters.
From a purely business perspective, savvy foodservice operators know that if the kids are happy, the parents are happy. Happy parents stay longer and spend more money, it’s as simple as that.