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How to be a Family Friendly Cafe

Treat Children Well to Ensure Repeat Business

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Many in the restaurant industry have heard horror stories about adults ignoring unruly children at cafes. In truth, these episodes are the exception, not the rule, but like any sensational story they spread like wildfire and give the false impression that it is common for parents to ignore their children in restaurants and allow them to ruin the meal for everyone else in the restaurant.

Restaurant staff that assume children mean trouble tend to communicate this in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. A few establishments have gone so far as to put up signs warning parents about their children's behavior. This is a poor way to welcome families to your restaurant.

Subtle behaviors that make families feel unwelcome include looking disappointed when they walk in the door and outright ignoring children. The bottom line is that when restaurant staff decide (either consciously or subconsciously) they do not wish to serve children, they lose huge amounts of business and goodwill in the community.

Children are People, Too

Children are people, and they deserve to be treated as such. When families enter the restaurant, greet them with as warm and gracious a smile as you would any patron. Make a point of saying “hello” directly to a child. If he or she responds with more than a “hi,” listen to him or her.

Have something for the children to do at the table. Many restaurants offer crayons and paper; another good choice is Wiki Stiks, beeswax coated string with which to make little sculptures.

Instruct wait staff to be gracious to children. They must be patient as parents help their children learn to order. When a child addresses a server, he or she must respond.

Children’s Menus

Children’s menus and special deals for children will get families in the door the first time; the way they are treated will keep them coming back.

Children’s menus should offer variety. It is a mistake to assume that children don’t eat vegetables; some families will choose to order food for their children off the regular menu when the children’s menu is limited. These families are less likely to return because the child’s menu is poor or unhealthy.

Offering a freebie on the kid’s menu is a popular and appreciated practice; for example, all children under the age of 10 who order a kid’s meal get a scoop of ice cream for dessert. (If they order off the dessert menu, they get charged.) Offering free drinks for children is another popular option, but restaurant owners and managers who only offer free soft drinks disappoint health-conscious parents. Include milk and juice as free beverage choices for children if you want happy and loyal customers coming back for more. The amount of business you generate over time will keep your restaurant going and will amount to so much more than the cost of a small glass of milk.

Solving Problems in the Restaurant

If children are not at their table and are getting underfoot the staff may reasonably feel nervous. Instruct staff to speak to the manager who may then approach the table with a polite and respectful request that the children not be in the walkway.

Be welcoming, polite, and reasonable when families come to dine. Treat the children like special, honored guests and families will reward you with repeat business.

Written by: Beth Taylor

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