From the Kids Menu
Give a kid a crayon and he’ll color for the first five minutes, but give him or her some options and you just may keep them entertained for the entire meal. Here are some ways family-friendly restaurants are keeping kids at the table.
IHOP allows kids to play with their food. In fact, servers encourage it with “Funny Face” or “Create-A-Face” pancakes, essentially a big buttermilk pancake with strawberry eyes, a whipped topping nose and banana smile. The Create-A-Face is served with a tube of strawberry yogurt so kids can add their own special touch.
Crayons and coloring are a prerequisite in the family-dining world, and the pancake house obliges. Specialized kids’ cups, placemats and even balloons are available at some locations, (but only if the kids behave themselves).
Perhaps following the lead of Denny’s, IHOP recently enacted a special offer allowing kids to eat free during the month of April.
“Kids eat free” has long been trademarked (or at least it should have been) by Denny’s. As long as children are under 10, and an adult spends at least $2.50, from 4 to 10 p.m. on select nights, on up to two kids’ entrées, at participating locations, they do, indeed, eat free. Ah, caveats.
Still, free is free, and that means Denny’s has a steady stream of hungry rug rats looking to pass the time before their meal.
Denny’s uses active sports themes, word searches, coloring and problem solving to keep kids from going too stir-crazy. “Wacky Sport Story” is somewhat of an inspirational and educational Mad Libs, allowing the child to fill in the blanks. For the sporty sort “Touchdown Mix-Up Maze” allows kids to color and complete a maze while “Word Scramble” rounds out the entertainment.
Chuck E. Cheese’s
It’s where a kid can be a kid, and where an anthropomorphic mouse watches over partygoers as they consume pizza and Pepsi. The Chuck E. Cheese’s formula is seemingly perfect for birthdays, which Mr. Cheese specializes in.
Game rooms dot the layout like Swiss cheese. They are divided into three categories: the Toddler Zone; Kiddie Area and Skill Games & Arcades, which feature everything from “the coolest video games and high tech simulator rides to our Skytubes® attraction and kiddie rides” where the “youngins” can stay pacified until the pizza arrives.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a casual-dining restaurant that gives more thought to childrens’ experience than Red Robin.
"While gourmet burgers are core to our business, we are also committed to creating a welcoming and fun restaurant experience," said Susan Lintonsmith, chief marketing officer for Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. "Providing our younger guests with activities they can do at the table helps make memorable connections with our guests and adds to the family-friendly atmosphere that Red Robin is all about."
Its seasonal in-restaurant programming for 2010 includes both an Etch-A-Sketch “burger drawing” contest, and a poetry contest, for the lyrically inclined youngsters. Red Robin has even gone so far as to lower their toilets to better suit its shorter patrons.
Not surprisingly, Red Robin offers coloring just like every other family restaurant. However, it also diversifies its kids’ menus throughout the year with different themes and interactive games.
Red Robin considers fun to be a core value, and like Chuck E. Cheese’s, specializes in birthdays. Kids 10 and under can sign up on RedRobin.com for a free kid’s birthday meal of their choice. Servers stop by the birthday table to sing the Red Robin birthday song (which seemingly changes from location-to-location) and the celebration is topped off with a “tasty, complimentary sundae” for special birthday boy or girl.
Parents Magazine’s List of the Top 10 Kid-Friendly Restaurants
1. Legal Sea Food.
2. Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes
3. Mimi’s Café
4. Uno Chicago Grill
5. Chili’s Grill & Bar
6. Red Robin
7. The Old Spaghetti Factory
8. P.F. Chang’s
10. Claim Jumper