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We've exhausted all of our favourite meals, and we're getting bored of cooking the same things every day. We'd give anything just to go to our favourite restaurant and be wined and dined, and our kids are definitely missing the novelty of dinners out as well.
Restaurant meals can be a really fun time to come together as a family and make special, lasting memories, so we've come up with a great way to bring a bit of fun back into mealtimes for the whole family to enjoy. For one very special night only, why not bring the restaurant into your house! Follow our step-by-step guide to bringing the excitement of going out straight to your kitchen, and create an experience your kids are going to remember for years to come.
Choose Your Cuisine
The all-important first step in opening your restaurant is choosing what it's going to serve. We recommend picking a family favourite place and trying to recreate your favourite dishes or choosing a type of food you all love to eat. We think a Mexican night would be great fun, with tacos, nachos and chilli. A classic favourite we always enjoy is Italian night, with pasta, meatballs and homemade pizza. Don't worry, we've got you covered with our super easy pizza recipe and some great ideas for cooking with toddlers too. If your kids are learning a language in school, picking the cuisine from that country can be a great way to practice. And if you can't possibly pick - why not ask each family member to choose their favourite food for a course. Kidadler Kin Kin says, "We brought IKEA restaurant to our kitchen yesterday since we miss it so much. Daim cake and meatball and chips and gravy.... my boy loved it and decorated and created the menu himself including the pricing lol"
Pick A Catchy Name
Get your family imagination caps on and choose a fun name for your restaurant. We love the idea of incorporating your kids' names to make them feel really special, or adding a personal twist to the name of a restaurant you all love. Get creative and get everyone involved in coming up with ideas.
Make DIY Signs For Your Restaurant
Well, no one would know how to get to your restaurant if you didn't have signs, would they?
Pull out the art things and get creative making a DIY sign for your home restaurant. This is the perfect time to practice neatest handwriting or enlist the help of older siblings. Stick them up in your dining or kitchen area or above the door to transform your home into a restaurant. If your children can't get enough of making things, you can decorate the table with homemade placemats, napkins and name places too.
Create A Fabulous Menu
Your next creative task is to make a menu for your guests. Older kids might like to design their menu on the computer for a slick look, but we think it's even more fun to write them by hand, especially for little ones to get involved. They'll love decorating the front of the menu with pictures, and why not add some games and activities to the back for extra fun while you eat. We really like a crossword or word search and some pictures for the guests to colour in.
Now's a great time to pick what you're going to have for your starters, mains and desserts, and decide if you want to add a separate kids menu or if everyone will be eating the same thing. You can add a few options for each course, but remember you're adding lots of extra work for the chef if everyone chooses different things!
Kidadler Claire says, "My 6-year-old got so much out of this and prepared all the menus herself - It’s totally made my day and is an amazing thing to do in lockdown!"
Hire Some Staff
Now it's time to decide which members of the family are going to be in the kitchen working as the chefs, who will be your front of house waiters and who gets the very important task of being the restaurant's guests. If your kids are confident in the kitchen it can be really exciting for them to cook for mum and dad, but with slightly younger children it can feel special for them to be treated like a grown-up and handed the bill to pay at the end of the night!
Make A Booking
Of course, your restaurant is in hot demand, so anyone who fancies eating there tonight will definitely need a booking. Ask your dinner guests what time they would like to dine at the restaurant and see if you can fit them into the very busy schedule. Younger kids will love calling you up to invite you for the meal.
Don't Forget The Drinks Menu
Home restaurants can be great fun for all the family, and if you have teens to involve, creating a drinks menu can be a great bit of grown-up responsibility. Why not ask them to research some fancy non-alcoholic cocktails and recreate them for the whole family? They'll love being the pretend bartender for the night and asking their little brothers and sisters if they want their apple juice 'on the rocks.'
Prep Your Waiters
If you have small person waiters, it can be helpful to give them some ideas for polite serving etiquette, like referring to their guests as 'Sir' and 'Madam,' pulling out their chair for them and having a tea towel folded over their arm at all times. This is a great chance for kids to learn how to properly set the table. Why not go the extra mile and dress up in outfits that fit your restaurant's theme, like a stripy t-shirt for a French bistro, or a shirt and bow-tie for an Italian place? It'll make the whole experience all the more special, and your kids will have so much fun getting to play at grown-ups.
Serve The Bill At The End
For the real restaurant experience, a delicious meal always comes with a price. Once you've finished your dinner, ask your little ones to make and serve a bill to the table with what they think the meal should cost. If you've added prices to your menu, it can be good maths practice, and can be quite fun to find out what our kids think things really cost. Remember to give a tip for good service to delight your hard-working restauranteurs.
Getting Under-Fives Involved
Children under five will have great fun getting crafty creating menus and placemats. If you have a chalkboard, why not get them to write up the menu or draw a picture of the food. They'll enjoy calling up mum and dad to ask when they'd like to make a reservation, and greeting their guests at the door to the restaurant!
Tips For Teens
Teens can often be a bit trickier to involve in family time, so we've got some great ideas that we're sure they'll enjoy. Why not ask them to take charge of the ambience of the restaurant, including table decor, lighting and an all-important ultimate dinner time playlist to play in the background of your meal. Teens will have fun creating non-alcoholic cocktails and getting to play bartender for the evening too. For more tips for teens during lockdown, check out nine more ideas here.
And if you're looking for even more fun activities to do during the lockdown, why not create a family tuck shop or a family time capsule to preserve your favourite lockdown memories. For more ideas, check out this list of fun and free indoor activities.
Emily has lived in London for ten years, and still loves discovering new places to explore in the capital with her two little brothers. She loves all things lifestyle and fashion, she is a fashion designer and artist, as well as working with arts charities to facilitate workshops and outreach on crafts, fashion, and design for children with special needs and children with difficult home lives who might otherwise not have access, from toddlers to teenagers. Emily is also a trained life coach and loves talking and writing about general wellness, mindfulness and healthy relationships.