Are you losing sales by not offering items for kids?

In doing some market research for a customer, we explored the local online boards for them.  While most comments were positive (Sweet!), we noticed a recurring suggestion from several different screen names.  These customers have young children and wished the local coffee shop they loved had more options for their kids.  Among some of their suggestions was a corner with an area rug or softer surface.

I have seen a lot of “Kiddie Corners”, children areas, etc. in various coffee shops. These may or may not work, depending on your location. Doing a simple evaluation of your current and potential customer base should provide all the answers. Either way, you probably don’t want to totally ignore kids, but you don’t want to go overboard either.  Depending upon the local rules, safety issues, and your customers, this could be a simple way to make your space more attractive for individuals bringing young children.

More importantly, in my opinion, are beverage and food options tailored more for children, preferably healthier, low caffeine offerings.  Many customers have asked us how to accommodate this using their same products.  Listed below are some options for children menus:

Beverages

  1. Ready-To-Drink boxes (juice, milk, water, etc.) in smaller sizes.  Available from many sources and involve little prep.  The profit margins may be low on selling these to be competitive, so try to offer some alternatives generally not available in most stores that allow you to obtain a higher profit margin.  Organic chocolate milk, 100% juice, kid friendly packaging, etc.  However, custom drinks described below can really make your shop stand out and be more profitable.
  2. Specialty custom made drinks.  These can include hot chocolate using milk and your chocolate sauce. Offer a smaller 8 oz -12 oz size, while remembering to heat the milk to a lower temperature for sensitive mounts.  You can garnish with whip cream and colorful sprinkles that are sure to make any kid excited.In addition to hot chocolate, you can use your flavoring syrups to “steamers” which are milk and syrup with no coffee.  I like to use a separate frothing pitcher for this and steam the milk with the flavoring syrup to release more of the aroma of the syrup. Some owners do not want to use the wand to heat milk and syrup together; you can add syrup later, if you wish.  Again, remember the temperature and to garnish with colorful fun toppings.
  3. Sodas. Often referred to as Italian sodas, Cream sodas, French sodas, cremosas, etc.  The basic prep is basically the same.  Using carbonated water, soda water (NOT club soda which contains sodium), flavoring syrups and/or cream, you can make a variety of colorful flavored beverages that, when served in a clear cup, excite kids.  You can offer in the larger adult sizes, but I recommend a `8 oz or 12 oz size to keep the portion down and the price points lower to help a multiple kid party.For a 12 oz soda,
    1. Clear cup
    2. Fill with ice
    3. Add two to 4 oz. of flavoring syrup, single flavor or combinations, poured over the ice.
    4. Fill with soda water, stir or shake. I prefer using the shaker to more evenly mix and create a bigger show!
    5. If doing a cream soda, add 1 to 2 oz of half-and-half or light cream before adding the soda water.
    6. Serve with colorful straws, whip cream on a cream soda and or a small kid’s toy or treat (gummy worms, etc.)
  4. Flavored water. Considering adding some flavoring syrups to bottle water to make it a more flavorful, special treat.   Charge extra for the syrup, like you would for an extra shot to a coffee drink.

Food Offerings

Do not forget the food offerings for kids and or combination offers.  Smaller cookies are great, especially decorated sugar cookies to match the season.  For instance, ghosts, goblins and pumpkins at Halloween.  Decorated eggs for spring, red, white and blue in July, etc.  Work with your baker to come up with some neat concepts.  Remember, adults like these too and want to order in larger amounts for events, parties, and the office.

For the morning day parts, you might want to consider selling small boxes of cereal and small milk cartons, fresh fruit, kid’s yogurt cups, etc. Ask your baker about baked items that kids like in smaller sizes appropriate for kids.

For the other day parts, if you have sandwiches, consider a grilled cheese panini, the old peanut butter and jelly (make sure nut and food allergies are not an issue and how to disclose in your area); fruit cups, string cheese, etc.

Promotions

When adding or enhancing current kid offerings, remember to get the word out through your social media channels, in-store signage, flyers, coupons, etc.  You might want to consider a separate menu board and kids offering for the day.  Make samples to offer when you have parents with children in the store.  Utilize a kid’s combination with a small toy or something as part of the purchase. This could even be balloon days; we have had customers use the small helium dispensers to do this.   Have a kid’s night or kids special hour that with an adult purchase of a drink, sandwich, etc., get a free kids drink (limit for each purchase).

Above all, to find what will work in your store, offering and price points, ask your customers.  Use your Facebook page to generate a discussion of what your customers with children would like to see.  I find them an invaluable source of new ideas.

Jeff Vojta
Stockton Graham & Co.