Restaurants that target families have to cater to both parents and their children. Kids are very influential in choosing a restaurant to dine, and are potentially your biggest customers. Today’s average parent will go to no ends to please and satisfy their children, and when it comes to food, parents will buy just about anything that their child expresses an interest in eating.

Kids are some of your most loyal customers and are often the ones who make the decision of where and what the family will eat that night, so it’s time to start marketing to your pint-sized customers as well. Here are a few easy-to-follow suggestions on how you can get those families into your restaurant tonight!

Create an online kid’s menu

Ask kids to register online to join your kid’s club by asking them their name, age, birthday and address. You should also ask them about their favourite food items. This information will automatically build your database. Once this is done, create an area where the kids can easily view and print your colourful kid-friendly menu. Make sure to offer a variety of interesting games, contests and coupons for special meals or drinks.

Direct mail to kids

Most children get super-excited when they receive a piece of mail. Using the information acquired from the kids who registered online, you can devote an entire direct mail program to kids with a flyer (with their name on it) offering special menu items made especially for them. You can also mail out coupons and other specials you might be having in the near future. You can also send each child a birthday card. Inside the card, offer a free slice of cake or a free drink the next time they visit.

Hold a monthly kid’s event

Hosting an event gives parents with their kids an added incentive to come to your restaurant and it will help boost your dinner sales. Once a month, have a special “Kid’s Night” at your restaurant where kids can get a short tour of the kitchen and have an opportunity to see how the food is prepared. Get their photo taken with the chef. Hire a clown or a balloon maker to entertain them.

Hosting an event gives parents with their kids an added incentive to come to your restaurant and it will help boost your dinner sales. Once a month, have a special “Kid’s Night” at your restaurant where kids can get a short tour of the kitchen and have an opportunity to see how the food is prepared. Get their photo taken with the chef. Hire a clown or a balloon maker to entertain them.

Engage kids through interesting and interactive activities

Children don’t like to wait. Have something for the children to do at the table or set up a small game station in a corner of your restaurant to include a variety of interactive games, coloring activities and puzzles. Kids are also drawn to videos, computers and mobile devices. Set up an area in your restaurant into a mini video and computer room where the kids can register for the online club and watch videos while they wait for their meal.

Use paper tablecloths, placemats and crayons

Kids get hungry and bored easily. Keep the kids busy by providing crayons and large sheets of brown paper used instead of, or in addition to, regular tablecloths. Children love colouring, so consider holding a monthly colouring contest and award gift certificates or coupons for free meals, desserts or drinks. Not only will you be making the kids happy, but you will give the parents and their children a good reason to come back to your restaurant. Keep the parents happy by providing high chairs and clean changing stations. It is becoming more common for parents to ask restaurant owners to have changing stations in both women’s and men’s restrooms.

Give out free balloons

I have met several parents that patronize certain shops and grocery stores solely based on the fact that their child gets a free balloon each time they visit. A free balloon is also an easy and inexpensive way to advertise your restaurant brand name around town.

Use a mascot to bring kids to your restaurant

If you want to appeal to kids, use a mascot! Kids love to be able to meet mascots and get their picture taken with them. You could have a costumed staff member stand on the street corner carrying a funny sign and acting goofy to draw attention to your restaurant. Make sure that the mascot fits in with the theme of your restaurant. Once you have a branded mascot, you can take it to a tradeshow, parade, farmers market or your next food event. Mascots are an excellent way to market and brand your restaurant on a slim budget.

Offer a variety of food

Offer kid-sized meals that are healthy, fun and at an inexpensive price. In general, kids don’t like to eat their vegetables. Make sure that your kid-friendly menu is well balanced, incorporating a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables served in a creative way. Ask your chef to come up with healthy meals that will be visually appealing to kids as well as tasty. If you sell pizza, make mini pizzas for the kids, and cut the pizza into several smaller pieces that is small enough for a child to handle.

Train your staff to treat children like special guests. Give your staff suggestions that they can give parents for combining your existing menu items into meals for their kids.

Kids also love fun drinks, especially one that comes in an unusual container. When a child orders, suggest milk or juice to accompany their meal, rather than pop. Pour drinks in kid-proof cups, and only fill them halfway.

Incorporate these tips into your restaurant to have families, especially the kids, wanting to come back.

Author

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 30 years. She is recognized as one of the best restaurant consultants in Canada and the U.S. Diane is an industry leader in providing innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655 or chiasson@chiassonconsultants.com or visit www.chiassonconsultants.com