The Unrepentant Individual

...just hanging around until Dec 21, 2012

February 6, 2008

A Million-Dollar Idea?

No. It’s not a million-dollar idea. But it’s a good idea, if I say so myself! And, because I’m that kind of guy, I’m only posting about this idea because I can’t figure out any way to make money off of it!

As a new parent, and having watched many other parents, I know that romantic dinners with your spouse seem to disappear once the kids arrive. I recently made reservations for my wife and I for Valentine’s Day, and it’ll be her, myself, and Wyatt out for the evening. Luckily, Wyatt is still young enough that he’s reasonably well-behaved (and immobile) at restaurants, so we shouldn’t have much trouble. But it’s a pretty nice restaurant, and if he was anywhere between 18 months and 4 years, I’m guessing we’d probably get our asses thrown out of the place.

But there’s a problem. Luckily for us, we have family in the area, so if we really wanted a night away, there are people we trust to leave in charge of Wyatt. And grandparents are known for volunteering for that sort of thing. But not long ago, we were living in Georgia, and there were only a very few people we knew well enough to leave as a babysitter. Trying to get a babysitter, at what we have learned is a relatively large cost ($5-10 per hour, which can add up quickly), would make it nearly impossible for us to go out for a “nice” dinner on a whim. And society has become more like we were in Georgia, with young couples moving away from family to follow jobs, than it is for us now, where young couples live in close proximity to family.

So how can “nice” restaurants, the ones who cater more to romantic dinners than your loud obnoxious family-friendly everyday eateries, cater to these young affluent parents? I think the answer is simple: have a room and a small staff devoted to taking care of kids!

Imagine, you want to take your wife to a nice steakhouse, but you know that your two-year-old won’t sit still for the 90-120 minutes that it will require to have a fine dining experience. You could leave your child with a babysitter, but then you constantly worry about what’s happening at home, and you have the thought in the back of your mind that even if you “got a call”, it might be 15-60 minutes before you could make it home. More often than not, you’re probably going to forego the dining experience in favor of something more convenient and accessible to a family with children. If you do choose the dinner, you know it will be a stressful experience where you spend more time worrying about whether your babysitter is watching R-rated movies while your child cries in a corner than tasting succulent medium-rare filet. And worst-case, you can bring your kids with you, which will probably ensure you spend your whole meal embarrassed by their behavior while the tables adjacent to you mutter nasty things about your lineage under their breaths.

But what if the restaurant had a “kids room”, staffed with one or more people who are good at entertaining children. Throw some toys, some books, and maybe a few TV’s in the room, and the kids will be more than occupied. Feed them some chicken tenders and let them play with other kids, and they’ll be excited to go out for a nice dinner. And if you worry about what they’re up to, you can go over to the room and check on them, because they’re barely out of arm’s reach the whole time!

The restaurant gets increased business from patrons who otherwise might not visit. The other patrons of the restaurant get a noise-free environment where they’re not subjected to the screaming kids. You get a great meal with your spouse, without having to worry about what some babysitter is doing in your home. It’s win-win-win!

As I said, I can’t necessarily call this a million-dollar idea, because I can’t figure out a way that I can make a million dollars from it. But I’m sure that the aggregate profit that could be realized by high-end restaurants due the increased business they attract could be well in excess of that million dollars. While I may never get credit if this idea is realized, I’ll rest easy knowing that I can enjoy the results: stress-free dining when my kid(s) aren’t around (but other parents are), and stress-free dining when I bring my kid(s) with (because I know they’re being cared for and entertained right around the corner).

Posted By: Brad Warbiany @ 10:56 pm || Permalink || Comments (8) || Trackback URL || Categories: Baby, Business, Food, Ponderings


  1. Brad,

    Join a country llub. Surely you remember Darrin and I bitching once a month about “Kids Night”. It was exactly what you describe. Also, I have recently joined a bowling league with some people from work, and the bowling alley has a staffed kids room that is monitored at the registration desk.

    Comment by Nick M. — February 7, 2008 @ 6:20 pm
  2. Okay, “country llub” = “country club”. And, the point of the bowling alley anecdote is to show that you may be behind the curve.

    Comment by Nick M. — February 7, 2008 @ 6:23 pm
  3. Brad,

    The way I see it, with your beer brewing prowess, you have only one option: open up a family friendly microbrewery/restaurant. The parents could have a nice, sit down dinner with their finely brewed beer while the kids enjoy an evening playing.

    What could be better?

    Comment by Quincy — February 8, 2008 @ 8:52 am
  4. I like Quincy idea….. Fraser and I took Bonnie on our anniversary dinner when she was a little baby. She behaved well but it was NOT a romantic dinner. As we had more children we realized that we HAD to have time to ourselves so we had baby sitters, that we trusted, come to the house and watch the kids. Also, our neighborhood had a baby sitting club that worked tremendously…..If you want to know how it worked, let me know and I will send you the details. The good thing about the babysitting club is that we traded babysitting duties and only cost us a start up fee. It worked great. I hope you have a romantic dinner, with Wyatt in toe…..

    TF and I learned very quickly that we had to have some “quiet, alone time” together.

    Comment by Lucy Stern — February 8, 2008 @ 3:45 pm
  5. Great idea!With what parents pay for babysitters anyway, seems like a great idea.

    Or, how about one of these day care facilities opening up for Friday or Saturday evening? They already have the facilities, they are licensed– seems like a McDonalds-does-breakfast extension!

    Comment by Tony Iovino — February 10, 2008 @ 8:36 am
  6. Tony,

    That’s a great idea. It seems like it would do well, but it wouldn’t solve my issue, since Joanna’s not working, so we don’t work with any day care centers on a regular basis. But in today’s two-working-parent households, that’s a very good idea. I’m surprised they haven’t thought of it yet!

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — February 10, 2008 @ 6:34 pm
  7. The first downside I can see is staffing. How does a restaurant pay the employee who’s there watching the kids? Do you pay them by the hour? If nobody shows up, the restaurant still has to pay the staff. If lots of people show up, then the “babywaiter” might be overworked.

    I guess you could solve both problems by having specific nights (dubbed “family nights”) that could be booked well in advance with only a few spots available, but now you run into another logistics problem: where do you put them?

    The restaurant owner is now forced to devote square footage that should be used for money-making dinner tables and using them as a nursery. Worse yet, what if the owner has to build a separate room w/ walls and sound-deadening. Of course, that takes up floorplan space as well. You can’t very well put the kids in a closet (although I hate kids so I would find it amusing), and you don’t want infant-chatter spilling over into the non-parent dining population’s dinner conversations.

    Paying the babysitter is a little costly, but then the big kicker is the cost of insurance. The restaurant is taking a huge liabiliyt risk in volunteering to watch the kids–it’s not like the McDonalds PlayLand where the parents are eating right next to the ball pit.

    Not to be a bummer…just my $.02

    Comment by Sober John — February 12, 2008 @ 5:52 pm
  8. There is a restaurant in Newburyport, MA that does just this thing and it is very popular, so I have heard. I have the upmost confidence in my babysitters (luckily) and don’t have a problem going out for a night out at $15/hour :)

    Comment by Hoover — February 14, 2008 @ 10:19 pm

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