Can Kids Make You Money?
Increase revenue during off-peak hours by catering to stroller set
Catering to kids at restaurants isn’t just about providing crayons, high chairs, kiddie menus and chocolate milk. Strategically, it’s about filling the restaurant at seemingly less-desirable dining times, such as before the dinner rush or over weekend brunch, in an attempt to drum up business.
This lull period can prove profitable by serving families who want to dine efficiently yet deliciously, and who pay their bill just in time for the next turn to arrive.
Guiseppe Tentori, Michelin Star recipient and chef/partner at GT Prime and GT Fish & Oyster in Chicago, agrees that catering to children and families can only help business. At GT Fish & Oyster, Guiseppe will take age-appropriate kids behind the oyster bar to help shuck oysters.
“I let them shuck an oyster each and they enjoy it,” he says. “It’s important to create memories. They ate the oyster and it was healthy and we provided a really cool experience, so the parents think to take them to GT Fish the next time.”
The chicken and waffles entrée on the kids’ brunch menu at GT Prime is a huge hit, as is the caricature of Tentori gracing the menu that GT’s littlest diners can color with the crayons they’re given. Tentori doesn’t miss the chance to increase revenue with the addition of unique brunch cocktails for the parents such as the “No. 1 With a Bullet,” a rye-based cocktail with crème de cacao, sherry, citrus stock, demerara and vanilla ice.
Also in Chicago, the Warbler, helmed by chef/partner Ken Carter, features incentives for families to dine between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Monday-Friday with a newly installed “supper club” offering. For $25 per person (kids nine and younger eat for free), diners choose one salad, one appetizer, one vegetable, one pasta, one flatbread and a choice of dessert. For larger families, there is an option to order two of each if desired. By 6 p.m., the supper club diners have finished, making room for the main dinner rush.
Co-founder/CEO Francesco Balli of Miami-based Grove Bay Hospitality Group is doing something similar to attract families at American Harvest.
“We entice (families) to come in earlier by offering them our ‘family meal,’” says Balli. That includes a whole roasted chicken, three sides and choice of sauce, for less than $9 per person. American Harvest also provides high chairs, booster seats and all-natural grab ‘n’ go snacks tailored for children.
“We entice (families) to come in earlier by offering them our ‘family meal.”
– Francesco Balli of Miami-based Grove Bay Hospitality Group
Though financial incentives are important when trying to attract family diners, many parents are simply looking for options for their children beyond the typical chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese.
The Farmhouse Tap & Grill in Burlington, Vt., offers little foodies a choice for their burger patty: LaPlatte beef, Misty Knoll turkey or a black bean veggie. And The Strand Bar & Grill, located within the newly renovated Carillon Miami Wellness Resort on Miami Beach, caters to the health-conscientious mom or dad. Executive Chef Stephen Ullrich has an $18 whole wheat tortilla-wrapped cheese quesadilla with salsa and guacamole on his menu, and all kids’ entrees include a side and dessert, of which fruits and vegetables make up 50 percent of the options.
Ullrich has a unique challenge in putting together the menu for a restaurant located inside of a hotel. “I think there has to be diversity and touch points that can make any family comfortable with the offerings. We try to have a wide scope of offerings because being in a hotel, you can’t have the child eating the same thing all vacation. (The Strand) offers guests a range of culinary options from guilt-free to indulgent, and I think it’s important that we offer the same options for children as well.”
GT’s Guiseppe Tentori adds that though parents want healthy options for their child, you can’t force them to eat a certain way “or they’ll be cranky and make your meal miserable. We try to include some sort of vegetables, so if it’s mac and cheese, we’ll have crispy broccoli that (the kids) can dip in the cheese sauce and eat.”