If you want to create a family-friendly atmosphere for your pizzeria, it all starts with the kids. When dining out with their young'uns, most parents go where the kids want to go. They're also looking for a restaurant that creates a welcoming and tolerant environment for children. Here are five tips for making everyone in the family feel at home in your pizza shop:

1. Buddy, you can spare some change. Do you have vending machines—such as bouncy ball, toy or sticker/tattoo dispensers—in your shop? Children can’t get enough of these inexpensive little trinkets, so the machines are a no-brainer for pizza shops. But if you really want to delight the little tykes, set aside a stack of coins just for them. Drop by a family’s table and, with Mom or Dad’s permission, offer the child quarters for the machine. Next time that family plans a night out for dinner, that kid will remember the free toy—and the nice manager or server who bought it for them. It’ll cost you a little spare change, but the goodwill and repeat business could be priceless.

2. Give away free balloons. Give away free balloons to every kid who walks in the door. Balloons bearing your pizzeria’s logo will really help build your brand for parents and kids alike. Other giveaway possibilities include pencils, temporary tattoos and Frisbees.

3. Create a Kids Cup design contest. Solicit original artwork from guests age 10 and younger. The children draw designs on their placemats, which then get hung up in the store. Let your staff select several finalists, take photos of the entries and post them on social media, allowing customers to vote for their favorites. The winning design gets printed on your Kids Cups for the next year, and the artist gets a free pizza party. (Thanks to Davanni’s Pizza & Hot Hoagies in Plymouth, Minnesota, for this idea!)

4. Host a Kids Eat Free Night. Don’t just give away pizza to the little ones. Make it a night to remember with balloon artists and free stickers or tattoos with every order. To make sure the promotion isn’t a money-loser, Farrelli’s Wood-Fired Pizza, a six-store chain in Washington, offers a free kids meal for every $10 spent by an adult.

5. Hire servers who genuinely like kids. If you truly want to create a family-friendly atmosphere, make sure your waitstaff know how to deal with kids, including the wild-eyed screamers, the shy ones, and the ones who can’t sit still. When Mom and Dad are having a hard time with the kiddies at a restaurant, a patient, helpful and kindly server seems like a godsend—and the grateful parents will remember that positive experience!

Hiring Tip from Linda “The Marketing Maven” Duke—Here’s how to make sure you always hire kid-friendly servers. Bring in a group of children during a slow time and have job candidates engage them with games and pizza-making activities. This auditioning process will help you to hire kid-tested and kid-approved crew members who can help you create your next kid-friendly promotion!

Learn more about creating a family-friendly atmosphere in this April 2015 article from PMQ Pizza Magazine.

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