From building their own pizzas to serving meals in a pirate ship, these kid-friendly food service franchises are innovating the family dining experience to bring more to the table than just good food.
If you’re family-oriented with a passion for food, here’s a menu of franchise opportunities that keep both parents and kids coming back for more.
Throughout its more than 50-year history, Ricky’s All Day Grill has always put family first, and that certainly involves catering to the youngest contingent.
“A lot of our older guests came here as kids and now are bringing in their grandchildren. This is a testament to how kids are a very, very important part of our business,” says Stacey Hansson, Senior Vice President, FDF Restaurant Brandz, the parent company of Ricky’s All Day Grill.
This focus on youngsters starts with the kids’ meal offering, which includes four different breakfast options, and eight choices on the lunch and dinner menu. The lunch and dinner items come with a choice of fries or salad, and they get a free mini dessert, along with a trip to the treasure chest to pick out a toy. Kids under two also receive, for free, two pancakes, mashed potatoes and gravy, or a fruit cup.
Hansson says the kids’ menu evolves to meet the wants and needs of Ricky’s All Day Grill’s youngest customers. “The lasagna, turkey dinner, and fish and chips are all things that we’ve added. We also change up the treats on a regular basis,” she says, noting that when Ricky’s All Day Grill made the switch to Raised Without Antibiotics pork products, that came to the kids’ menu, as well, along with Ocean-Wise cod in the fish and chips.
The menu has also been upgraded from a single-sheet format to an eight-page activity book with trivia, mazes, puzzles, and a comic. “The Ricky’s Our Club activity book is a great investment, with different Canadian themes updated quarterly. And best of all, kids love it.”
Ricky’s All Day Grill also puts children at the forefront by supporting Breakfast Clubs of Canada. “On our adult menu, a dollar from every breakfast club sandwich goes to that program, and a dollar feeds a child breakfast for a day. Last year, we raised $52,000 for the program,” says Hansson.
It takes a certain type of franchisee, notes Hansson, to thrive in this kid-friendly environment. “We look for passion for excellence, quality food, great service, and hospitality. If you have those, we can train you on the skills you need, the steps of service, and the Ricky’s Way.”
That training comes in the form of 200 banked hours of training while the store is in construction, followed by 10-12 weeks of in-restaurant training. A support team also helps set up the restaurant and trains staff, and provides assistance for up to three weeks once the location is open.
Hansson advises prospective franchisees to remember that opening a new restaurant franchise is no easy feat. “You need to understand the commitment that’s required, make sure it fits with your family style, and make sure your family is all on board with it, because you need the balance and you need the support of the people who surround you.”
Family meals are a critical component of Italian culture, and for Jason Allard, it’s important to ensure that Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria provides this family-friendly dining experience.
“Famoso is a place where everyone is welcome. With Italian cooking in general, family meals are a big part of the culture, so at the restaurant, we definitely welcome families, with kids being a big part of that,” says Allard, Famoso’s Chief Operating Officer.
That’s why Famoso offers a kids’ special, which includes a pizza or pasta, a drink, and a scoop of gelato for dessert. “Our kids’ meals are very similar to what we offer to everybody else. We have pizza, which is an incredibly customizable product, which kids love, and a few of the simpler pastas, as well,” notes Allard.
When it comes to the nutritional component, Allard says that Famoso strives to provide the best ingredients possible, so parents can rest assured that their children are digging in to a high-quality meal. “We care about serving real food, from our flour, which is a ‘00’ flour that’s easily digestible, to our fresh mozzarella, which is made with 100 per cent Canadian milk, to our Italian meats, which have no fillers or preservatives and are gluten free. That’s just something that’s really important to us, and we will continue to evolve.”
Along with the kids’ menu, Famoso has its own way of keeping kids occupied during meal time. “We cater to kids by giving them some pizza dough to play with when they arrive at the table. They get to play and stretch out pizzas, or make sculptures out of their dough,” says Allard, noting that Famoso locations also provide highchairs, booster seats, and a variety of tables to suit families’ different needs.
Famoso also participates in school programs, with classes coming in to learn about Neapolitan pizza, and to stretch out dough and build their own pizzas. “The nice thing about Neapolitan pizza is that once you’ve built your pizza, you throw it in the oven, and it only takes 90 seconds to cook. So it’s a great interactive and learning session for kids, and we’ve had various locations bring in classes and community clubs to take part in that,” says Allard.
Allard says a passion for hospitality is at the top of the wish list when it comes to Famoso franchise partners. “It’s not just executing service steps and food quality, it’s going that extra step and making sure people feel appreciated, welcome, and comfortable in their environment.”
Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria provides a 10-12 week program for the whole management team of a new restaurant prior to opening, along with another five weeks of support surrounding the opening – two weeks before, and three weeks after.
Allard’s words of wisdom for those looking to embark on a career in family-friendly food franchising? “You have to be a hard worker, hospitality-driven, and just have a love for great food. I would advise people to do proper planning, to make sure they’re willing to commit, and to make sure that they’re passionate about the business they’re going into.”
If you spent time in Vancouver as a child, you’re likely familiar with White Spot’s Pirate Paks, which have been attracting children, and the rest of their families, to the restaurant chain for decades.
“We’ve been around for almost 90 years, and our founder, Nat Bailey, was always someone who believed in family. We have lots of families coming into our restaurants, and we wanted something that really represented our brand in a fun way for kids. So the Pirate Pak was born 48 years ago,” says Sharron Tulk, Manager, Marketing, White Spot Limited.
So what exactly is a Pirate Pak? “You can have your choice of seven different entrée items and a side, plus a drink, dessert, and a gold coin, and it all comes in a pirate ship that’s delivered to your table,” explains Tulk, noting that there are also three different choices on the breakfast menu, and the side options include healthier fare like apple slices and veggies and dip.
Tulk says that the Pirate Pak hadn’t evolved too much in the past 50 years, before it was revamped last February. White Spot partnered with Kidzsmart, a Vancouver-based company, to create a new look for the pirate ship, and to introduce a new set of characters – Captain Beak Rogers and his Cluckaneers.
“We also had them design a new activity map, and what’s really unique is that interactivity was placed right onto the map. Kidzsmart developed technology called smartlenz, which is an augmented reality tool that allows you to hover your phone or tablet over the ship to bring the characters to life, and allows you to play games right on your phone,” says Tulk, noting that you can download a free app from the App Store or Google Play.
White Spot’s focus on kids also extends to its charitable efforts, says Tulk. “We have a very strong family focus when it comes to corporate social responsibility. We have our annual Pirate Pak Day, where, for one day, adults can be kids again by purchasing their very own Pirate Pak. It’s a one-day fundraiser for a local charity called Zajac Ranch for Children, and we raised over $100,000 last year.”
Tulk believes it’s the fondness for the brand and its offering that attracts franchisees to the White Spot opportunity. “A lot of the people who have worked within the brand have ended up becoming franchisees. We’re just looking for someone who loves the brand like we do, and who loves to really engage with their staff – our staff are like family to us.”
Once franchisees are on board, they’re given the tools they need to manage and grow their businesses. “We provide a tremendous amount of training, and have a whole learning management system, so everything you could ever want to know about White Spot as an owner, a chef, or a server is available online. It’s really hands-on and easy for people to find the information they need,” says Tulk.
By Lauren Huneault