Kids these days. Between supervised play dates, online bullying and video games for smartphones, childhood isn’t what it used to be. And don’t even get us started on the ever-present threat of school shootings. But kids today and the kids of yesteryear still have one thing in common: a love for pizza.
Strangely, many pizzerias do little to make their pizzerias more kid-friendly, even though the young’uns often have a big say in where the family eats out. “Restaurants are leaving money on the table by not capturing more visits from families with kids,” Bonnie Riggs, a restaurant industry analyst for NPD, told PMQ back in the April 2015 issue. With that in mind, here are seven ways to create a pizza paradise for toddlers and preteens alike.
- Get them seated quickly. Younger kids aren’t exactly known for standing patiently and quietly in line. Train your staff to give special treatment to families with tykes. Make sure to provide high chairs and booster seats as needed and get them to the table quickly. And bring their meals out fast, even if their parents’ food isn’t ready yet.
- Keep your bar and dining areas separate. If you’re trying to walk that tricky line between family-friendly and a more adult experience, you don’t want your impressionable younger customers to be exposed to a bunch of rowdy, hard-drinking party animals—and parents don’t care for it either. At the very least, seat families with kids as far away from the booze as possible.
- Give the kids something fun to do. Encourage their natural creativity through coloring or drawing. Hold regular art contests for children and offer gift cards or coupons for free food or drinks as awards. Display the winning entries on your wall—that gives the families a reason to come back to your pizzeria. You can even feature all the kids’ drawings on social media and let customers vote for their favorites.
- Give away free balloons. No kid ever turned down a free balloon. Print the balloons with your pizza restaurant’s logo, and you’ll get some inexpensive advertising out of the deal. You can even bring in a local balloon artist to entertain them while they wait for their pizzas.
- Hire servers who actually like kids. This is a biggie. If your waitstaff know how to talk comfortably with children, they’ll create a welcoming atmosphere that the entire family will remember. Ask them questions like, “When is your birthday?” or “What’s your favorite sport?” or “Who’s your favorite singer?” If they order a pizza with pepperoni, ask if they want the pepperoni slices arranged into a smiley face.
- Create take-home packets. These could include items like coloring pages, temporary tattoos, small collectibles, pens or pencils, and balloons. Throw in a copy of your kids menu, too.
- Keep allergies in mind. Parents appreciate it if your servers inquire about possible allergies. Make sure your staff is ready to provide a list of allergens used in your menu items. And always offer a kid-sized gluten-free option or three.