February 6, 2008
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).
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