Restaurants go all out to woo little ones

Restaurants go all out to woo little ones

On weekdays, The Bank Bar & Bistro in Shenton Way is a popular watering hole for working professionals in the Central Business District.

But on weekends, the restaurant-bar sheds its corporate image for a family-friendly one, complete with a mini slide, ball pit, cartoons and colouring sheets.

Ms Evangeline Chai, its head of marketing, events and brand leadership, says of the restaurant's weekend makeover: "There is definitely demand for more family-style dining, especially on weekends. And, on weekends, there is less human traffic here. Usually, family-style dining places are located at shopping malls which are crowded."

With parents looking to occupy their kids during mealtimes, hotels, restaurants and cafes are finding that it makes good business sense to cater to children. More are introducing kid-friendly facilities and kids' menus.

The Singapore Resort & Spa Sentosa's Sparkling Sundays @ The Terrace brunch is normally fully booked during festive periods and is at least 90 per cent sold out most weeks. Its Corner includes toys and drawing, while the kids' buffet has everything from pizzas to finger food to a popcorn trolley.

The Manhattan Fish Market chain of casual restaurants recently launched a new Manhattan Junior Menu which caters to kids.

A spokesman for the restaurant chain says: "We noticed that children are now the 'decision makers' when it comes to selecting dining destinations.

"It is very important for us to have a kids' menu, as children make up a significant portion of our customers and we want to be able to offer something for every family member.

"We noticed that children between six and 12 years old are getting more educated and gaining more exposure to new things. They like to be served and their taste buds have evolved as well."

And it's not just the usual pasta and fried finger food on the menus. Many restaurants are also jazzing up children's meals as well as using organic and sustainable produce.

Jamie's Italian Singapore at VivoCity reflects celebrity chef-owner Jamie Oliver's mission to get children eating healthy meals and enjoying mealtime too.

The restaurant's head chef, Alex Barman, says: "If you give kids a bit of ownership over their food, they'll really embrace it, so he (Jamie Oliver) created the 'shake me' salads. The kids get to mix the dressing themselves by shaking the plastic jars and they have a small, fun role in putting it together.

"The little ones also love dipping their chicken lollipops and fish fingers in the lemony yoghurt sauce."

Barman notes that last month alone, the restaurant sold more than 1,180 kids' meals, including fish fingers and fries that are baked and not fried.

The Skinny Pizza chain has kids' menus at its outlets at Great World City and Westgate, a response to requests from customers.

Its spokesman says: "The kids' menu is very well received and on average, we see that 70 per cent of families order something from it.

"Our menu creation is based on ensuring that the dishes are nutritious yet attractive to kids' palates. We aim to ensure that there is some form of fruit and vegetable worked into the dishes, as well as a balance of protein and carbohydrates."

Others establishments are also bumping up their offerings.

The Prive Group, which has kids' menus at Prive Cafe, Roadhouse and The Green Door, is looking to introduce more kids' entertainment at its upcoming outlet in Chijmes.

Currently, it has a magician and balloon sculptor who entertains children every first Sunday of the month at Prive Cafe.

Over at Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa's Sunday Garden Party, selected Sundays feature special themes such as World Cup and F1, to tie in with the sporting events.

Also mixing dining with playtime are some children's centres that have cafes.

Cool De Sac, a children's playcentre in Suntec City which opened in March, has Bistro Cool, which offers dining options for both adults and children.

The franchise from America houses an indoor playground as well, and its kids' menu includes housemade purees for babies.

Its spokesman says that Singapore is a young, growing nation with many young parents. The aim is to offer full-dining facilities for them while also allowing their to use its educational play stations.

At Aha! Drop-In Cafe, which is part of an after-school student care centre, students get to dine with their friends at the cafe. There are books and games for the children, and programmes for them to take part in.

Parents tell SundayLife! that they are constantly on the lookout for kid-friendly eateries, preferably with healthier menu options.

Housewife Jaime Tan, 35, who is a mother of a three-year-old son and two-month-old daughter, says: "I find a lot of kids' menus have unhealthy things like fried nuggets and fish and chips. Once in a while, this is okay, but I prefer my son to eat food that is healthier.

"If I order from the kids' menus, I would pick pasta or pizza. I would love to find a restaurant that serves good food and provides a play area for kids, as opposed to a kids' playground with a cafe attached to it. I feel food at the latter tends to be more average as it is not their core business.

"But I am looking to try Cool De Sac and The Bank Bar & Bistro as I've heard their play areas are fantastic."

While editorial specialist Deborah Giam, 34, is not particular about eating at a kid-friendly location, she would pick one over a "normal" restaurant if she has a choice.

The mother of a four-year-old girl says: "It doesn't need to be something as big as a play area or hiring someone to do activities with the kids. Things like activity books or small toys to keep the kids occupied are always great.

"What I also look out for are service staff that are pro-active - not putting piping hot dishes in front of my kid or serving hot food over my child's head.

"I'd love to see a restaurant put more effort in the presentation of food for the kids - fun plates or different shapes and faces, just so the kids themselves can also enjoy the meals."

euniceq@sph.com.sg


BISTRO COOL BY COOL DE SAC

What: This is the first Asian franchise for children entertainment playcentre Cool De Sac from Miami in the United States.

Besides an indoor playground, there are also fun activities for children. These include arts and craft, dressing up and interactive console games.

The attached cafe Bistro Cool caters to both adults and children.

For those aged six to 18 months, homemade purees (from $2 for a 113g serving) are available.

Other kids' menu items include roasted chicken with a sweet purple potato puree ($6); and Mac & Cheese with butternut pumpkin and cheddar cheese sauce ($6).

The adult menu features salads, pizzas, pastas and burgers, as well as desserts such as baked churros ($6) and brownies sundae with homemade brownies.

Where: Suntec City, 3 Temasek Boulevard, 02-379/380/384/385

When: 10am to 10pm (weekdays), 8.30am to 10pm (weekends)

Info: Call 6337-0734 or go to www.cooldesac.com.sg

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