7 Ideas to Make Your Restaurant Family-Friendly
Updated: Jun 21
An establishment that is well-known in the community as a go-to place where families gather whenever they want to dine out every single week.
A perfect venue to host special family occasions like birthday parties or any event to celebrate a family member's milestone.
To be the most family-friendly business. That should be the goal of your restaurant.
Do you think Chick-fil-A and McDonald's are known as two of the friendliest restaurants for no reason?
Definitely no, there must be a tremendous amount of strategy behind everything they have done in their restaurants in many different aspects to be family-friendly.
One is obviously their play areas that make it very convenient for couples to finish their meals without the hassle of dealing with "bored" children.
If the kids are done eating, they can just go to the play area while their parents are having a good time while they finish their meals and have a good conversation.
It is rare for couples to do that when they go to restaurants with kids.
And with all these things, that maybe you and I can not afford to have, however, it's more about identifying the problems that they were able to solve by having those designated areas for kids to play and be resourceful on how we can recreate some of those things in our own restaurants.
In addition to that, they have fun kid's place mats that absolutely attract children. They have kid's meals that come with a toy and an ice cream cone that surely kids loved.
They also have sanitizers that they offer to boys and girls the minute they come out of the play area.
They even have a little stool in the bathroom for the little ones to step on to wash their hands, how thoughtful is that, right?
So they have gone through a colossal amount of thought and strategy, and obviously, they have teams for that, thinking about what are the problems that parents encounter when going to restaurants and how are they going to be a go-to place for families.
For small businesses like us, we can absolutely take simple steps on our own to make our restaurants more family-friendly, it is just a matter of creativity and diligence to be one.
First, you must consider these 4 basic requirements for you to become a more family-friendly restaurant:
1. High chairs - Make sure you have enough high chairs or booster seats for babies and toddlers that your people clean every day.
2. Changing tables - The restrooms must have a changing station for mothers to be comfortable in changing their babies' diapers because if you don't then perhaps you are sending to moms message that your restaurant is not so kid-friendly.
3. Kid’s menu - We all know that most children are picky eaters so you need to come up with menus that are appetizing for the kids and overall can give them a good experience.
4. Kiddie cups - The majority of the families would prefer little cups with lids for their young ones because they are easier to use and to avoid any mess.
So now that you are fully aware of the primary things that you need, here are 7 ideas for you to become a more family-friendly restaurant:
1. Coloring/activity sheets - This is the most common idea that you can consider, it is extremely easy, grab something from the internet and make it on your own.
We did a lot of kids' activity sheets in our pizzeria. We purchased 250 boxes of crayons from Amazon for like $10. You want to make sure that you have plenty of them when the little kids fill out the activity sheets.
When they paint something, we do post it on the wall. We have this area that we called the "Kid's Art" section where kids get to display their works on the wall, this is very nice because every time they visit us, they see their names on it.
We asked kids to put their names and age on the sheets and we even give away sheets that have a message like "Fill out this activity sheet and get a free zeppole donut with a minimum purchase of $10."
That way, the kids can bring an activity sheet home, they can fill it out and ask their parents to come back to the restaurant and get the freebies. That apparently increases our repeat business.
So be creative, coloring or activity sheets really work, on Mother's Day or Father's Day or any occasions, we redesign our activity sheets a little bit so it is more contextual to what's going on, what's the season and it's more heartfelt, hence being more appealing to families.
2. Train/Lego table - This is something that we learned from frequently visiting barns, adding a train table, they even have a Lego table and we applied that to our own restaurant.
It usually costs somewhere around $100-$150 to purchase one from Amazon and set it up in a little corner in your restaurant.
We received dozens and dozens of compliments from families being happy about that because their kids enjoy it and it keeps them busy so the couples can have a little conversation and almost have a mini-date.
We may not afford a whole play area like what Chick Fil A's or McDonald's offer but to have a budget of $150 and add a little feature to your restaurants like a train or a lego table isn't bad at all, that can definitely make more families visit and come back to your place.
3. Man in costume - Along with the ways of keeping the kids busy with activities to do, one of the greatest things you can make is to purchase costumes, like pizza, burger, taco costumes, etc.
On Friday nights, we have our Pizza guy come out, wave and say hello to the kids and they really loved it, they even take photos with the Pizza guy.
That costs less than $50 of investment, depending on what you want to get, but little activities like this can go a long way.
Have a team member that you can pay extra to do this a couple of hours within your busy shifts or whenever you hold a fundraiser or any event to come out with a face painting or a balloon, etc.
Again, send the message that you are a family-friendly place where families feel welcomed and have a great time.
4. Family events - Hosting specific events for families like family nights, kid’s parties, and other things like that can be remarkably helpful in expressing to people that you are a perfect place for families to get together.
For instance, one of the things we have done is we partnered with a pottery place that serves families with young kids.
We held the "Pizza and Pottery" event in summer for years where kids would come out to join.
It was $50 per child and families would really love having the experience to build their own pizzas.
We used to set this up in our patio where we had doughs, cheese, toppings, etc. that they turned into their own DIY pizzas and as they were baking in the oven, they get to paint a pot.
That has been very helpful to us in gathering more families, tap into partnering with other businesses that serve families.
It's a Win-win-win situation, a win for you, a win for your business partner and of course a win for the families.
Nowadays, it is beyond great food to establish our brand to people, we need to create a memorable experience for our customers, giving parents a reason to take photos with their phones and post them on their social media must be one of our goals.
This way, we can tell the people we are indeed a family-friendly restaurant.
5. Local schools - If you want to be famous for being the most family-friendly restaurant in your community, then start supporting your schools by hosting fundraisers and spirit nights.
In our company, we host a minimum of 2 spirit nights a month, and we do that every single month.
The reason for that is because we want to serve families.
Families come to check us out, they maybe did not know about our restaurant and because of the spirit night they come and check us out to see that we are indeed very family-friendly and they feel welcome and they may love our atmosphere and want to stay with us.
So be good friends with schools, we do donate a lot of pizzas to the teachers, we take pictures and share them on our social media.
Again you are sending a message and building your brand as a family-friendly business.
6. Trained people - Train your employees to handle families with young kids very well, many of them may not have kids yet for them to understand and have empathy for families with children.
Train your servers what they need to do in different circumstances, "If this happens, do this, if the ticket times are taking long, do this" or show them some other ways that they can learn the body language of the parents and the kids.
You know that when the kids are hungry, they climb up walls, that is just a fact.
One of the things we do in our restaurant is we train our people to compliment the little kids to their moms and dads like saying, "Hey, your daughter is so adorable, what's her name?" or "That outfit looks cute on him."
Parents love to speak about their kids all the time so why don't we let our people talk about the kids to their parents, right?
Compliment them, and be nice to them, you can say, "Hey, what's your favorite food, let me take that out for you", parents feel special when we make their kids feel special. This will undoubtedly give families the idea that you are being fond of them.
7. Speed of service - Quick service is valuable to customers, no one wants to wait for so long, especially children who can get easily bored and annoyed with waiting.
What do you think is the standard speed of service of McDonald's and Chick-fil-A for dine-in?
These are both popular fast-food chains that can bring their food to a customer within an average of 120 seconds.
And perhaps you are not that fast because you are not a fast-food, but what we are trying to point out here is that you need to be obsessed with reducing your ticket times and ensure that people know your standard.
You need to guarantee that your people are equipped with the right knowledge and skills to meet the standards of your ticket times.
If your ticket times are long, you must have a strategy in place to make them better.
For instance, at Grimaldi's, a famous Pizzeria chain in the US, they cut pizza doughs to turn them into dough balls and give them to kids to play.
That distracts the children from being bored or restless because the wait time doesn't seem long.
So think about your ticket times, reduce it as much as you can.
When you go to the dining room, make sure that families get to eat first, if the food for the kids is ready, ask the parents if it is okay to serve them first.
Very fast speed of service is critical to assure that you are a family-friendly place.
These are 7 ideas to help you put into practice in making your restaurant more family-friendly and attract more families to come to your place.
As you know, families go out a lot, kids have schools, they have different activities and most of the time, moms and dads don't have time to cook so we can be their best friends for them to check us out and feed them with our great food.
We love serving families in our restaurant so we always find ways to serve them better.
Listen to the podcast:
Download 52 ideas for 52 weeks of the year to market your restaurant The Ultimate Restaurant Marketing Guide