Every restaurant operator is looking for ways to trim the bottom line and increase revenue. But few think to look at the people who really pull the strings on restaurant decisions – kids.
Children have a marked influence on where families choose to eat, and many restaurants are missing that opportunity. In fact, a report by the NPD Group shows families with kids made one billion fewer visits to restaurants over the past six years, making young families a huge source of lost sales.
Here’s what you can do to get the vote from backseat diners and parents alike.
Offer options…but not too many.
Offering choices on your kids menu lets little diners feel independent. At the same time, too many choices can be confusing. Maintain a menu balance, keeping it simple and easy for kids to understand while also giving them options.
Many parents don’t want to spend $7 on a kids meal when their finicky toddler might refuse to eat half of it. On the other hand, older kids can eat like crazy, and parents are looking for ways to fill them up on a budget. Keep value in mind, offering lower pricing for kids, a special value night or a discount with purchase of an adult meal. Loyalty programs are also a great way to drive repeat family traffic.
Don’t ignore the importance of health.
According to a CSPI report, 97% of kids meals don’t meet basic nutritional standards, and parents are paying attention.
More restaurants than ever are offering fruit, milk and even quinoa in their kids meals. And kids don’t mind it. A recent study tracked orders before and after a drastic kids menu change that eliminated fries and soda, replacing them with options like low-sodium salmon and strawberries. The study found that kids loved the healthier options, and parents didn’t mind paying a little more for them.
Keep food allergies in mind.
For parents of children with food allergies, a little effort to identify potential hazards goes a long way. Know what’s in your menu items, and if you can, identify nut-free, gluten-free and dairy-free options so parents can make informed choices.
Make your space family-friendly.
Imagine you’re a mom wrangling a hungry toddler while dad parks the car, your newborn baby is crying, and your six-year-old needs to use the bathroom…NOW. For many families, that’s a typical Tuesday. Consider these special needs when furnishing your restaurant. Offer a few larger seating areas for families; plenty of booster seats, high chairs and infant slings; changing tables in your restrooms (or even a family restroom); a play area for kids; and little amenities at the table like crayons or wet wipes. And it should go without saying – fast service is essential. These little touches can make your restaurant more appealing to busy families.
Ask them what they want.
A quick survey, intercepts or other research can give you the chance to ask families what they want from your restaurant. Don’t be afraid to solicit feedback and take action. You could learn that something as simple as messy or spicy menu items are deterring families from your restaurant, and an easy fix might win them back.
For a free infographic on the dining habits of Millennials and Gen Z, visit our foodservice page.