Youngsters See Their Dining Wish List Become Reality
Bella Italia, the family-friendly Italian restaurant, has placed the future of its kids menu in the hands of some of the country’s toughest customers – children aged from 3 to 11.
With an established reputation for family-friendly service (that’s official as Mumsnet has awarded Bella for the development of its family-focused dining with an innovation award!), Bella decided to go a step further and allow boys and girls to rip up the rulebook and rebuild the way in which its restaurants cater for their younger customers.
Throughout the project, which spanned over a year, the children of the Bella Kids Panel tasted hundreds of ingredients and finished dishes, road-tested serving tools and table tackle, advised on timings and service standards and enjoyed hours of putting adult experts through their paces.
The research involved 7,000+ parents, carers, children and the official Bella Kids Panel who all shared their wish lists for an ideal dining experience. Today the results of their insight will be made available to all UK families as the new menu goes national.
Among the key demands made by those involved in Bella’s year of research were:
- A focus on food quality and wider choice
- Authentic food that is more “adult”
- Innovative food
- Menus to suit different ages of children
- A variety of refillable drinks – so no nasty bill surprises.
- Interesting and quirky presentation (Bella learnt that children eat with their eyes too!)
What’s more, both children and parents spoke of the need to have something to eat within minutes of being seated so Bella has introduced complimentary ‘Brilliant Breadsticks’ which are immediately placed on every family’s table even before their order is placed.
It’s not just the menu that’s changed; Bella Italia has also taken on board feedback which has resulted in changes to the wider experience for family customers. Parents shared that they like to use the experience of dining out as an opportunity to teach children how to behave in restaurants and how to interact with other adults. This was taken on board with the servers who have been taught how to interact with the children directly and involve them in the conversation. The Bella Kids Panel also gave the thumbs up to fun activity sheets that created a talking point or a quick distraction for tiny tums.
Bella Italia examined some of the long-standing problems parents face when dining out with kids including how to tackle hidden extras that crop up when the bill arrives. For instance, by offering free drink refills served with takeaway curly straws.
Bella Italia Director of Marketing and Food Development, Hilary Ansell, said, “The new Bella menu is by families, for families and offers fantastic food at great value prices. We’ve taken on board every one of the demands set down by the Bella Kids Panel and would like to thank everyone involved for their inspiration.
“The children and their parents, with a little help from our Development Chef, Vittorio Lettieri, have introduced innovative new products such as Pizza Dogs and Slurpy Soup in a mug to bring new sizzle to the Bella menu. They also lobbied hard for classics to be introduced, which were added with a great Bella twist like Easy Peasy Macaroni Cheesy which is now a stand-out dish on the menu. We can’t wait to see how the new kids menu goes down with the general public now it’s no longer our best-kept secret!”
The creation of the new Bella Italia Kids Menu helped to secure the restaurant a prestigious Mumsnet Innovation Award, which recognised its commitment to family-friendly policies. Justine Roberts, Mumsnet CEO and Founder said: “Bella Italia won one of Mumsnet’s Family Friendly Innovation Awards – voted for by our users – for their family-focused dining. Mumsnet members praised Bella Italia for taking the time to talk to parents and children about what they wanted in a family restaurant, and for innovations such as making adult sized meals available in children’s portions, along with providing free breadsticks and refillable cordials.”