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Feeding the tweens

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Feeding the tweens

Feeding the tweens

We all remember our ‘tween’ years – that period of your life where you don’t want to be treated like a little kid anymore, but at the same time you’ve not yet been granted the independence of a fully-fledged teenager. So to go to a restaurant and be presented with a colouring book, pack of crayons and a special kiddie menu? The outrage!


Small gestures

Restaurants could certainly be capitalising more on the £4 billion family market in the UK by focusing on the little details. In fact, a lot of it is in the greeting. A study carried out by Oxford Brookes University into the experience of parents eating out with their kids found that small welcoming gestures were all that was required to ensure their repeat custom.

After all, it’s not only about the food and atmosphere – it’s about how you’re made to feel when you eat out. I’ve said it before, but front-of-house staff who adjust how they speak and what they say depending on the customer have mastered a truly honed skill.

Talk to the whole family – whether it’s about what they’ve been doing that day or explaining dishes from the menu – focusing on the children as active decision makers. Both the kids and parents will really appreciate your efforts.


Open up the menu

While it can be helpful to have a set menu especially designed for little ones, older children often need bigger portions (but not quite adult-sized) or more variation. And, perhaps most importantly, they wouldn’t be seen dead eating from what they consider the ‘baby menu’!

I’ve often wondered why more restaurants don’t do half portions to solve this issue – obviously for some menu items, like steak, it might not be possible, but it would really help open up the menu which will have much more vairiety including healthy options as well as the “standard fair” to younger diners. It seems like an easy win to me.

That’s surely why restaurants like Nando’s are so appealing to older kids – they can go up to the till and make their own decisions, order themselves, refill their drinks, and grab their own sauces – and they absolutely love this independence.


Age-appropriate activity packs

I’ve seen it a few times but not on a regular basis – why don’t more restaurants offer double-sided activity sheets? One side aimed at younger kids (aged 3-7 maybe?) and trickier puzzles (like sudoku etc.) on the other.

Activity packs could also be more family orientated – I remember being presented with one that was done in a quiz-style, which made it much more interactive, where one of us took charge and asked everyone around the table conversation starters like “What was your favourite holiday of all time and why?” or “Draw your first pet!” – it was a great idea to engage everyone and much better than just parking them off with some blunt crayons and a picture of a butterfly to colour in. It might not be for all families, but good to have there as an option.

Similarly, I don’t see any harm in having nostalgic board games on offer – Guess Who? for example – top trumps or a deck of cards to hand. Although Jenga could be one step too far - too noisy for my liking!

It goes without saying that happy families = happy business. Just don’t generalise kids as all being five or six… remember the tweens!

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