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Catering to Young, Hip Parents

Catering to Young, Hip Parents

Create an atmosphere—and menu—that appeals to families wanting more than chicken fingers and cheese pizza.

Having kids tends to mean joyful times for young parents. As the kids get older, parents still want to feel like they can enjoy a nice meal out. So, what can you do as a restaurateur to make everyone feel welcome?

“Start with educating your staff. They need to be as welcoming to parents with children as if they would if they’re on a date without the kids,” says Janelle Reynolds, executive chef/partner at Rosedale Kitchen and Bar in Austin, Texas. “When kids are made to feel welcome and part of the evening, the parents want to come back.”

Rosedale has a large outdoor area with a variety of games, which plays well at the start of the meal. Staff can offer to quickly take kids’ orders so they can run off to play, while parents relax with the menu. It features more than fried food for the kids, which was important for Reynolds, a parent herself.

“It’s been so disappointing that the only options are chicken fingers, cheese pizza, burgers or a sad vegetable medley no one wants to eat,” Reynolds says.

“We have a menu that has something that’s not only good for the kids, but the grown-ups would eat, too.” That includes flatbread with grilled chicken, bacon and arugula or a quinoa bowl with sweet potato, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds.

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To keep kids occupied while waiting for dinner to arrive, Washington, D.C.’s Kingbird restaurant, inside the iconic Watergate Hotel, offers the Scandal Scavenger Hunt. Set between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., a hotel staffer takes kids to find specific things in the infamous “scandal suite,” that led to President Nixon resigning. Kids who answer at least four questions right get a free sundae.

“Parents want to have experiences with their children and a lot of places forget that,” says Peggy Williams-Smith, senior vice president of Milwaukee-based SafeHouse. “Ours is a fully immersive, spy-themed concept. Our servers are agents, they talk in code and bring you fully into the world of espionage.”

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Chicago’s Tortello also makes dining intriguing for families. It boasts a full pasta-making area where kids can see how their food is made before enjoying something off the “bambini” menu.

“We wanted Tortello to be the modern, American version of that Italian restaurant where everyone has an amazing meal and experience,” says owners Dario Monni and Jill Gray, “whether you've got a babysitter that night or not.”

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