Kids’ menus, play areas, and booster chairs are positive signs a café welcomes customers with children. But being kid friendly is also an attitude. Do baristas roll their eyes when a stroller rolls through the door? Can menu items be modified for picky eaters? Accommodating families doesn’t require installing a playground on your patio. Sometimes simply smiling and welcoming a frazzled set of parents is all it takes to show your kid-friendly colors.
Australian coffee culture has influenced American cafés for years. The flat white, menus with expanded food offerings, emphasis on quality coffee from independently owned shops—all have seen success in the United States.
One trend yet to gain widespread popularity in American cafés? A focus on serving large groups and families instead of individual customers.
“It’s like going to a bar you love, with the bartenders talking to you, and it seems like a fun, happy place where you want to be,” Courtney Chapman says about Australian cafés. Chapman came to the United States four months ago from Australia to manage Seven Point Espresso in Brooklyn, New York.
Seven Point takes extra steps to make sure families of all sizes feel comfortable and accommodated. Chapman developed a kids’ menu of small, tasty items that were also approved as healthy and affordable options by parents. In addition to offerings like grilled cheese and a poached egg on toast, Seven Point offers babycinos. The introductory version of the cappuccino consists of three ounces of steamed milk, chocolate on top, and a marshmallow on the side—free with any adult purchase before 10:00 a.m. and only two dollars after.
“So many local kids now have tried a babycino and love it,” Chapman says. “Now that they know us, they’ll order it themselves, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Posies Bakery and Café in Portland, Oregon, has also garnered a reputation for being kid friendly, but owner Jessie Burke likes to think of the shop as being people friendly—period.
“It’s about showing that you’re inclusive of everyone,” she says. And that includes kids.
Posies is located in Portland’s Kenton neighborhood, about ten minutes north of downtown. Burke was inspired to open the café after recognizing a need for gathering places in the neighborhood; with most of the commercial spaces occupied by offices or restaurants, there weren’t a lot of choices for people seeking a social outlet. Burke says it was also clear parents had few places to take their children—something she’d become more aware of as a new mom.
“Everyone loves you when you’re pregnant, then hates you when you have kids,” she says. Especially in the coffee community, she notes it can be difficult to find cafés that embrace families. A dismissive attitude can be very alienating for parents.
“When you have a newborn or young kids, you just want to get out of the house and feel like part of society,” Burke says. “But then you go somewhere with your kids and people just glare at you.”
So Burke set out to design a space that was enjoyable for guests of all ages. Posies has a playroom in the back of the café stocked with books, costumes, and a kitchen set. The room also has chalkboard walls kids can draw on. Burke has learned from experience to keep some things out of the play area—mostly for the safety of staff. “Nothing with wheels, nothing with noise, nothing that moves by itself because you will kill yourself,” she says with a laugh.
Posies’ laid-back environment reflects Burke’s experience as both an educator and a parent of three kids under the age of ten. The playroom isn’t governed by lists of rules, but staff are on the lookout for unruly play (Burke says she pulls out the “scary teacher voice” when necessary).
Parents are welcome in the play area, or they can enjoy their coffee while keeping a watchful eye through large windows on the playroom walls. Other accommodations include bench seating (much easier for younger customers to maneuver than stools) and a kids’ menu, complete with grilled cheese and PB&J—though most kids opt to order from the main menu.
Burke is glad her café has developed a reputation for being inviting to families, but she reiterates her original intention: the café was designed to be welcoming to any prospective customer. “Ultimately, everyone is allowed to be there.”
Looking to appeal to your pint-sized customers? Offering kid-friendly goodies is a quick way to win over the whole family. These prepackaged snacks were made with nutrition and portability in mind—making them life savers for on-the-go parents. We hear they also pair well with hot chocolate and vanilla steamers.
Bobo’s recognized the need for a smaller version of their delicious oatmeal bars and introduced Bobo’s Bites. At just over a third of the size of their original oat bars, the handmade snack bites deliver a taste of home with a base of oats, brown rice syrup, and organic cane sugar. The vegan and dairy-free Bites come in seven flavors: Original, Coconut, Maple Pecan, Lemon Poppyseed, Apple Pie, PB&J, and Gingerbread. eatbobos.com
This Kid Saves Lives
As parents wrangle their “hangry” children, offer them a snack with an added benefit: a philanthropic tie. This Bar Saves Lives (TBSL) designed a line of bars for their younger, pickier customers. For every box sold, TBSL sends life-saving food to a child in need. Available in two flavors—Wild Berries and Chocolate Chip—the soft, delicious bars are packed with fourteen essential vitamins and minerals, wholesome oats, and organic honey. thisbarsaveslives.com
—Ellie Bradley and Chris Lucia are Fresh Cup’s editor and associate editor.