A restaurant for children? Here we tell you how to start in it

A restaurant with games and staff to take care of children may be the business you are looking for to give wings to your entrepreneurial dream. Remember that because it is a mixed turn, you must take care of what happens in the kitchen and what happens in the game room.
A restaurant for children? Here we tell you how to start in it
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15+ min read
This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Esperanza Barrón had been working in the pharmaceutical industry for 15 years when, given the lack of space for her and her husband to enjoy a good meal and their little son to play in a safe, adequate and supervised environment, she decided to leave her job to open Chocolate, Molinillo , a restaurant with a playground and staff for children .

The challenge was great: he did not know anything about the operation of a restaurant and had never had a business. What she did know is that, like her, many parents had the same need to eat out with their children, without having to run from one place to another to watch over them at games.

"As a good marketer, I studied the environment, hired an expert consultant in the restaurant industry, looked for staff and made sure that the restaurant was what parents look for but that children enjoy, and to our surprise it was a success from day one" explains Esperanza.

Two years after its opening, Chocolate Molinillo is inserted in a restaurant industry that brings together 515,059 establishments and that directly employs almost 1.5 million people, according to the National Chamber of the Restaurant and Seasoned Food Industry , Canirac . Be the new entrepreneur in this industry. Follow the steps to achieve it.

Customer segment

Consumers in this line of business are families of socioeconomic level A, B, C and C + who have one or two children. They tend to eat out one or more times a week and like to do family activities.

In this regard, the Nielsen Global Study on Trends in Food Outside the Home states that although Mexicans are very homey, 40% consume their food in an establishment. Of that total, 17% choose to do it at breakfast, 58% at lunch, and 43% at dinner.

Their favorite establishments are fast food (51%), formal restaurants (46%), casual restaurants (44%) and coffee shops (31%), which usually select based on price (52%), quality of food (37%) and service (26%).

Obviously the opinion of the children has a lot to do with it. No wonder a Euromonitor International report warns that children influence parents' purchasing decisions. Therefore, although the turn in question is designed for adults, it is the children who have the last word.

In Mexico, there are three minors for every 10 inhabitants, that is, 39.2 million minors under 18 years of age, according to Inegi. Entrepreneurs in the industry estimate that around a third of this population is likely to be impacted by the shift.

Value proposal

A business that revolves around children is likely to be profitable, so a restaurant with casual food for adults with games and staff to supervise children under 12 seems the perfect formula.

It is a business designed for parents who want to eat out, who are looking for practicality and who want to taste their food with the peace of mind of knowing that their children eat and have fun in a suitable and safe space, with furniture, toys, accessories, and games of table that promote their cognitive, psychomotor and social development.

Its origin dates back to the 1980s, with the advent of fast food outlets with confined play areas for children ages three to 10. As time went by, some entrepreneurs adapted the original idea, added the aforementioned valuable elements and even contemplated the necessary facilities to hold children's parties.

The result? A new restaurant model that has become a best seller among parents and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs who love service, children and food .

Entrepreneurs in the industry agree that the idea will continue to mature, mainly in cities with the highest purchasing power. In Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Querétaro and Puebla it is already being exploited, even by restaurants that were not born under that concept.

An example is Los Danzantes restaurant where exclusively on weekends they set up a playroom with two people assigned to a group of no more than 10 children.

"In our toy library we seek to promote values, an awareness of harmony, solidarity, teamwork in the little ones through games and directed activities," says Guillermo Pineda, Director of Operations of Grupo Los Danzantes.

As you can see, the recreational restaurant twist is a necessity and in some ways the industry is embracing it, what do you think?

This business offers spaces for children to have fun in a suitable and safe place, with furniture, toys, accessories and board games that promote their cognitive, psychomotor and social development / Image: Shutterstock

Distribution channels

This type of restaurant mainly uses a direct distribution channel in which products and services are sold and consumed directly at the establishment.

This facilitates greater control over the quality of the food that is delivered to the diner, as well as the service provided, response times and distribution costs (because there is no need to pay commissions or salaries to third parties). Likewise, it allows diners to live the experience to the fullest, considering that the games area is one of the main attractions.

Obviously you can also resort to delivery platforms, which charge a commission on the total sale achieved, or hire a delivery person, who, however, will generate expenses such as the purchase of transport, uniform and insurance.

Regardless of the distribution options you adopt, be impeccable in your response to the customer based on predefined delivery policies. “The diner is the most important thing. You have to take care of the treatment; make him feel at home ", says Ricardo Quiroz, Director of Public Relations at Rustic Kitchen , an Italian-American restaurant that even without having a play area was able to connect with its child audience by developing" make your own pizza "workshops in your instalations

Relationship with customers

One of the pillars for the proper performance of this business is to build a good relationship with customers . The objective is to shield the brand against possible attacks from the market and / or competition.

Until a few years ago this relationship was restricted to the moment of consumption: the diner arrived, ordered, ate and left; But with the rise of technology, the dominance of social networks and the growing tendency to be hyperconnected, customers are setting the tone for how, when and to what extent they want to engage with brands and suppliers.

The relationship can begin before the customer arrives at the restaurant (perhaps they have already taken a virtual tour, launched a question on Facebook, visited your Instagram or called to request reports), and continue even after they have left (by leaving a comment on your fan page, for example).

Faced with this scenario, the recommendation is to carry out actions both in the online and offline sphere. In the offline world, he tries to be impeccable in service, in the quality of food and in the safety of children. Make sure your employees have on hand the necessary information about food, services, safety and rules of use of the facilities.

In the online environment, invest in the development of a website with a reservation system, open social channels ( Facebook and Instagram are basic) and set up a WhatsApp group to inform your customers about promotions or launches.

Source of income

The income in this business comes from three sources: food and beverages, playground and children's parties .

Food and beverages contribute around 30% of the income at the rate of tickets of 200 to 320 pesos, although it is possible to find children's packages for 150 or less. The busiest time is usually for lunch and in the afternoons. The best selling days are weekends.

Games and activities are charged separately and constitute an average of 15% of total revenue. For example, there are places that have a fee of 50 pesos for an unlimited time; while others charge 100 for four or five hours.

The rate includes the supervision of a staff, made up of monitors who watch over the safety of the children in the play area and are in charge of their entertainment.

“On the weekends it is always full and during the week it is quieter; it lends itself more to children's parties, which is the other business unit that is in great demand ”, explains Luis Ariosto, from Monas Fun & Food .

Offer to organize a party. The service for four or five hours, food and drinks, piñata, cake, some activities for children, staff and the right to use the facilities. Monas, Fun & Food has packages of 20 to 150 people whose price ranges between 6,500 and 42,000 pesos.

“While the restaurant reports profits of 28% to 35%, the organization of parties leaves 55% to 62%. This is because at parties the costs have already been paid by the restaurant; that is, we already have everything: only consumables are used. This leaves us with a greater profit ”, clarifies Luis.

If you are interested in the tour, remember that in addition to an impeccable administration, you must guarantee safety, fun for children, good cuisine and an attractive atmosphere for adults.

Key resources

To open the curtain of a restaurant with games and staff to take care of children, a space of between 175 and 250 square meters is required, preferably at street level, anchored to a commercial and / or restaurant area and surrounded by important roads. Communication.

The dimensions should be aligned with your business concept, considering a) sales floor, b) playground / children's parties, and c) kitchen / cellar. In this sense, Luis, from Monas Fun & Food, says that an ideal distribution is 30% for the sales floor (tables and chairs), 15% for service areas (kitchen, cellar, toilets, office), and the rest for games.

The kitchen equipment includes an industrial stove, an iron and a smoke extractor hood; refrigerators, heavy-duty appliances (blender, blender, processor, microwave oven), work table, crockery, glassware, pots, knives, and miscellaneous utensils. On the sales floor he places 25 tables, 100 chairs and 15 high chairs for babies.

Adapt the recreational area with a play ground type game and a toy library with skill areas (board games), little house (equipped with kitchen, living room, dining room, various utensils), arts (there are easels, tables and chairs), and crafts ( costumes and utensils of the firefighter, astronaut, cowboy, chef, doctor).

If space permits, place an exclusive area for children between 1.3 and three years old equipped with balls, 'worms' and material for early stimulation. Remember to install a closed circuit television.

The basic staff to operate the kitchen and the sales floor is a chef, two cooks, a dishwasher; a cleaning person, a cashier, eight waiters, a manager (could be the entrepreneur) and an accountant (outsourced). For the play area, one person is required for every 6/7 children; if they are under three years of age, the equation is 1: 3.

Finally, take care of the decoration. Preferably seek the advice of a restaurant expert and an architect. The idea is that the atmospheres of children and adults are differentiated, so that parents and children feel comfortable in the place they occupy.

Key activities

The day-to-day activities have two axes: restaurant and services related to children. In restaurants, you must have good inventory control to minimize production costs, maintain an optimal level of raw materials, and generate greater profitability.

“A universal rule is the First In, First Out (FIFO) system. This means that the first products to enter must be the first to leave. With this we give mobility to the inventory ”, says chef Azari Cuenca , who has developed various restaurant and hotel concepts throughout his career.

The supply depends on the demand, but as a general rule you can buy groceries every 15 days and perishable goods three times a week. As for the kitchen, it takes care of the preparation and conservation of food, it also learns how to dispose of leftovers.

In the sales floor, make sure that the staff has a service attitude, knows the letter and the institutional procedures. For example in greeting, promotion of dishes and response to complaints.

The playground the paramount is safety and order. To achieve this you have to keep everything in its place, make daily inspections of the condition of the furniture / toys and once a month make exhaustive reviews.

For example, at Chuck E. Cheese's , a chain of restaurants where entertainment for children is based on more than 70 video games and on obtaining exchangeable tickets for prizes, they have an entry / exit protocol: to all family members the same stamp number is placed on the arm, which is verified upon departure.

With this they ensure that everyone who enters together, leaves together, explains Paulina Ramos, Marketing Manager of The Bright Light Group , a consortium that groups seven branches of the brand in Mexico.

Another recommendation: install a closed circuit in the play area and put up a notice where you make it clear that children are the responsibility of the parents and that the staff is only support personnel.

Key alliances

In the restaurant business, the correct alliances can facilitate many things: from having all the supplies in time and form, to obtaining credit to pay it in 30 or 60 days.

Rustic Kitchen, for example, once teamed up with Crayola to launch a drawing campaign for children in elementary schools; they had to draw the pizza of their dreams. Winners got product.

“This alliance gave us visibility with our key audiences and brought us the children and their parents, because the drawings had to be delivered to the branch. It was part of a very successful campaign, ”says Ricardo Quiroz, director of Public Relations for that brand.

Like this restaurant, you can make alliances at various levels. For example, you can organize a brand activation aligned with your philosophy, target and security standards. Also visit schools and companies and offer them preferential prices for their events.

Cost structure

The investment depends on the characteristics of your project: dimensions, equipment, services, etc.; as well as the business model you choose: franchise or independent business.

According to Enrique Alcázar, general manager of Alcázar & Cia, the advantages of franchises are that they reduce risks, facilitate obtaining and accessing experience, technology and know-how . On the other hand, it requires the payment of entry fees and royalties, the property of the brand is never acquired, the decisions are made by the franchisor and you have to adhere to its supervision.

Monas Fun & Food is a franchise option. Luis Ariosto, marketer, and Sergio Reinoso, architect, joined forces, experience and talent to create in 2013 a restaurant and party room, with a vintage adult area, a children's area on three levels, access controls and staff for minors.

“The investment ranges between 3.2 and 3.7 million pesos, including the franchise fee. Added to this are two fixed fees: royalties (8% of total sales) and 1% for institutional advertising ”, explains Luis.

Currently Monas Fun & Food has branches in San Ángel, Satélite, Narvarte, Polanco, Coyoacán in Mexico City and will soon open in Querétaro and Guadalajara.

In case you want an independent business, the investment can be 30% or 35% less than that of a franchise, but you must assume the risk of starting without the umbrella and the accompaniment of a brand.

If you choose this route, plan your expenses. Keep on the radar, for example, the cost of the rent, the investment in the adaptation, equipment and decoration of the premises, as well as the purchase of supplies. Do not forget the issue of salaries.

In this last aspect, we recommend you consider an emotional reward, such as Esperanza, from Chocolate, Molinillo, who has been successful in keeping employee turnover at bay.

“In this turn the rotation is very high, but not in my case. I attribute it to the fact that I value the work of my staff and try to be fair to them. Most of them are women and I give them facilities to attend their children's events or even bring them to the restaurant during the holiday season. The girls who support in the play area also have facilities. Many are studying pedagogy and here they have flexible hours. Something similar happens with my chef ”, explains the entrepreneur.

How much to pay employees? It depends on the geographical location and aspects such as business location, affluence and profitability, but in general a chef receives a monthly salary of 12,000, the cook 7,000; the kitchen assistant, 5,500; the cleaning person 4,500, and the girls on the staff receive an average of 50 pesos per hour.

If you have doubts about how much to pay your employees, check the job boards and do a survey with other restaurants. Take the average and check it against your cost structure.

As you can see, there are various strategies to start, operate and grow your business. Find a differentiator, leverage yourself with the right partners and get started.

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