Saturday, April 28, 2007

Top Ten Things a Kid-Friendly Restaurant Should Have

When I am doing my reviews, and when I recommend a restaurant to a fellow family, I usually keep in mind several attributes that a restaurant should have to be considered kid-friendly. You know, besides good food, which is a given. So, in no particular order, here is my Top Ten List of Things a Kid-Friendly Restaurant Should Have:

  1. Other families eat there
    They must know something, right? Plus, their kids may drown out my kids.
  2. There's a place to run around or take a little one who's having a meltdown
    Places with playgrounds are great as are big waiting areas or even just a little (safe) space outside the restaurant to just have the kids run off some steam.
  3. Entertainment/activities to distract the kids
    Crayons and coloring menus are probably the best. Also good are TVs (but only if they can be tuned to cartoons), open kitchens, aquariums, and even watching video games in demo mode (yeah, my kids like to do that). We'll let our 7-year-old bring his Nintendo DS but the problem is getting him to turn it off when the food arrives.
  4. Kid-friendly food and drink menu items, with smaller quantities and prices
    Kids love pizza, chicken fingers/nuggets, Mac-n-cheese, grilled cheese and hamburgers/cheeseburgers. If a restaurant has a few of these items, most kids can find something to eat. I also look for an item or two from that restaurant's cuisine so my kids can branch out a little bit, for example, in a Mexican restaurant offering a kid-sized burrito, taco, or quesadilla. Oh, and don't forget about the drinks! Soda alone doesn't cut it. I want a place to offer at least juice (not just orange) and milk. However, my little one prefers lemonade and chocolate milk so I'm very glad when those are on the menu.
  5. Appropriate cup/utensil options for kids
    Speaking of the food and drink, they should be served properly to the kids as well. Plastic cups with lids and straws are a must (especially the straw!) as well as not serving the big honking steak knives to the kids.
  6. Stable and clean high chairs and booster seats are available
    Luckily, I don't have to worry about this anymore, but I know a lot of parents do. I remember pulling over high chairs and they wobbled so much I was sure it would fall to pieces as soon as I put my baby in it. It's also important to have a place to put the high chair - some of these places with the high bar-like tables can't accommodate a high chair as well.
  7. Clean floors
    'Cause I know my 3-year-old is going to end up down there anyways. 'Nuff said.
  8. Servers/hosts that cater to my children
    Really important to have friendly servers that act like they truly want to serve my kids. I also like when they ask if we want the kids' meals delivered first or with the adult meals, when they come by with extra napkins, when they bring small munchies such as crackers before the food is served, etc.
  9. The right loudness...
    So that other patrons won't notice my kids being loud, but not so loud that we all have to shout to hear each other. There's nothing worse than when your kid yells and every head in the restaurant turns to look - yikes!
  10. Short wait times
    On getting a seat, on giving our order, on getting our food, on getting our check - kids' patience levels are pretty short. My Hubby's is as well so it is a bonus all-around if we don't have to wait long for anything.

There you go, my personal Top Ten. Do you all have any others to add?


Steamy Kitchen said...

Hey there! I'm in FL too - Bradenton. We have family in Orlando and season tix to Disney - I'm SO glad I found your post.

My additons:
I love that Carrabbas lets your kids make their own pizzas - they are proud of the creation and will actually eat it!

A toybox full of small table-friendly toys. Several local restaurants have a toybox with dolls, trucks, trains, doodlepro, etc. Fun stuff that entertain my kids - I don't have to lug around our own toys and my kids always like other peoples' toys better anyways.

Restaurant Mom said...

Steamy Kitchen - the toys is a good one! I know that Outback Steakhouse has toys in their waiting area. Thanks for adding to the list!

JSC said...

We look for places that have friendly staff. The way a waitress/waitor treats my son registers with me. I remember clearly what places had staff that took an interest in him.

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