Is Your Café Kid Friendly?

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Kid friendly cafés

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.

Borrowing Trends

Australian coffee culture has influenced American cafés for years. In the United States, it’s common now to see things like flat whites, menus with expanded food offerings, and independently-owned shops with an increased emphasis on quality coffee.

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.

Kid-friendly cafés
Photo by Nomi Ellenson

Seven Point takes extra steps to ensure families of all sizes feel comfortable and accommodated. Chapman developed a kids’ menu of small, tasty items like grilled cheese and a poached egg on toast that children and parents love. Seven Point also offers babyccinos; 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 babyccino and love it,” Chapman says. “Now that they know us, they’ll order it themselves, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Welcoming For All Ages

Posies Bakery and Café in Portland, Oregon, has also garnered a reputation for being kid-friendly. 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.

Kid-friendly cafés
Photo by Nomi Ellenson

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 area; 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 challenging to find cafés that embrace families, and 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 an enjoyable space 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—primarily for staff safety. “Nothing with wheels, nothing with noise, nothing that moves by itself,” she says with a laugh.

Kid-friendly cafés
Posies Bakery and Café. Photo by Kaitii Bandura

Posies’ laid-back environment reflects Burke’s experience as an educator and a parent of three kids under 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 the large windows on the playroom walls. Other accommodations include bench seating (much more manageable 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. Still, she reiterates her original intention: the café was designed to be welcoming to any prospective customer. “Ultimately, everyone is allowed to be there.”

This article was originally published on March 27, 2017 and has been updated to meet Fresh Cup’s current editorial standards. 

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Ellie Bradley and Chris Lucia

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