Did you know? Kids drive more and more decisions on where families choose to eat. Your menu only plays a minor role in delivering family-friendly service. Waitstaff training specifically geared at providing top-notch service to your youngest customers will go a long way toward turning kids, and their parents, into loyal guests. Here are some ideas to help you build guest loyalty with family-friendly service:

Train “kid focus.” Many servers, hosts and other employees don’t have children. Their frame of reference may be their pesky little sibling. Teach your staff how to talk to younger guests, including eye contact down at their level and compliments on coloring, eating or ordering. Here are some simple things younger employees or those without children might need to be taught: Don’t put high chairs in high-traffic areas, don’t place hot plates in front of small children and always put lids on drinks (or regret it later).

Make the restaurant kid-friendly. Try something different. Offer toys to play with at the table (an Etch-A-Sketch, for instance, or other small games). Let kids pick a toy on the way out (a la the dentist’s office) or provide cool, interesting desserts or beverages (included in the price or for a slight up-charge). Consider: Push Pops, slushes, smoothies, etc. Create a wow for the kids to drive parents’ loyalty.

Pay attention. What will help keep kids busy, behaved, and taken care of? Things like providing extra napkins, bringing kids’ meals out early if parents agree, helping with the kids if you can, and providing something to keep the kids busy will earn a lot of points with your guests. Be unique! Make them feel extra special.

Control the pace. Do parents want to eat quickly or enjoy a little relaxation? Provide fun. What can occupy the kids? The more fun the experience is, the more often the family will return.

Hit the “tweeners.” As kids get to be seven or so, they outgrow kid’s meals, but in many cases, Mom and Dad don’t want to spring for the adult portion yet. Provide selections for the older child — more grown-up food, but smaller portions. Grilled chicken or fajitas, double-burgers, small steaks and rib baskets create a huge value statement for the restaurant.

Based on the restaurant management book Now That’s Service That Sells!. Click here to read more.