WORK IN PROGRESS
Cafe Mama's Guide to Kid-friendly Restaurants in Portland and beyond...
This is my developing guide. As a mama with the mind of an entrepreneur, I am constantly evaluating businesses and the way they relate to mamas and their needs. Moms and their young children are really a potentially huge market segment for service businesses. They generally have a good amount of money, tons of free time, and are looking for a haven away from home. They generally appreciate quality and understand that value doesn't mean getting the lowest possible price for a commodity - they would rather pay a little more for a lot better product. But so, so few businesses are thinking about this right - even the ones owned and managed by mamas. I'll just give my mental checklist below: it would be a great reference for someone looking to start a business that targeted mothers with small children, pregnant women, and the babies and small children themselves.
- Servers who have been briefed on, and are managed to recognize, the needs of moms: immediate delivery of the bill and to-go containers when children are melting down, offering a clipboard for credit card slips so you don't have to set your baby down to sign, bringing out beverages and finger food (popcorn, apple slices, chips, whatever) very quickly, remembering important substitutions like, salad instead of potato chips, or milk instead of soda, and basic attentiveness to a mom's mood
- A secure door - I don't want to have to worry about my child dashing out into the street while I'm signing my credit card slip
- A place to store strollers - because it would be nice to go for a walk and stop in
- More accomodation for strollers - a wide door, and a couple of restroom stalls big enough to wheel them in
- A small area for children to play, with toys that haven't yet been recalled, and ideally, separate areas for babies, toddlers and older kids. Far away from the exit.
- If you don't have room for that area, or even if you do: buckets of small toys (cars, plastic animals, etc.) to bring to the table, and a stock of children's books
- A welcoming changing table, not one of those institutional plastic folding guys, with a box of diaper wipes for forgetful moms and a place to put your diaper bag while you change, and a trash can within reach
- Convenient hours - open early enough so that early bird moms can stop by for a cup of coffee on their morning walk, or late enough so that working moms can take advantage of cool places and definitely, totally, absolutely, always open after 5 p.m., and on Sunday afternoons
- Thoughtful and healthy menu choices, things like plain fruit in cups; cheerios; grilled chicken cut up into small bites; carrot sticks and other cool veggies like zucchini, broccoli and bell peppers; oatmeal; plain pasta; finger food like raisins, popcorn, crackers without trans-fatty acids, pretzels; and lots of soy and organic options, like veggie dogs, plain gardenburgers and organic yogurt
- Have a baby section where there are no condiments, sugars, or knives already on the table, no tablecloths to pull off, and lots of room between tables for strollers
- Keep the floor clean so errant crawlers won't eat anything too dangerous
- Make it known that you will take to-go orders out to people's cars, with the credit card slip, when babies have fallen asleep mid-errand
- Don't market to kids - in other words, don't put that big basket of overpriced doo-dads at baby level. Have a heart, just market to the parents, they'll be more likely to come back if they don't have to run out with a screaming toddler who insists on having every ball in the basket.
- Keep your floor plan open, but don't put the kids near places they aren't allowed to go - the kitchen, behind the bar, the hot coffee pots, the meat slicer, etc.
- Don't give out balloons. Once someone gets one, everyone wants one, and they are sure to get chewed up by a baby or lost by a scream-happy toddler
I'll be adding more to this list as I complete my guides.