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NOW FINISHED: Help create PizzaExpress' Service Charter and have the chance to win £250 of PizzaExpress vouchers

(364 Posts)
Carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 16-Sep-10 18:49:24

You may recall many moons ago we asked for your thoughts on what makes the perfect restaurant/ cafe for mums (here), but we cannily didn't tell you who was asking the questions as we didn't want that information to skew your answers? Well we can now reveal that the company who wanted to garner your collective wisdom was << small fanfare >> PizzaExpress and the reason they wanted to know is that they are in the process - in their words - of "creating the PizzaExpress of the future".

The first of their new generation restaurants will be unveiled on Oct 21st in Richmond (that's London not Yorks - sorry Yorkshire folks) and there'll be invites for Mumsnetters to road test it, with a chance to feedback and tell them what you think of the new concept before they start rolling it out elsewhere. Anyone interested in knowing more now, there'll be a blog about it live from Sept 17th here

They're introducing things that have the potential to keep children happy and occupied, like communal kids' drawing tables, and silent, interactive video screens created by the same chaps who did some of the great games at the Tate Modern. And they promise that there'll be room for buggies - one of the top things to come out of the survey smile It's going to be open all day, starting at 8.45, serving brunch and freshly baked daytime treats. The idea is that Richmond should feel like a bit like a 'living lab', where lots of new ideas are going to be tested out. The ones that work, they'll roll out, the ones that don't, they'll ditch.

One of the major themes that emerged from the initial survey was the difference good service makes to whether you frequent a cafe/ restaurant or not and PizzaExpress now want to create a Mumsnet Service Charter that they can use to help train their staff. Carrie is going to be videoed as part of their training, talking about what it's like to be a mum and what mumsnetters want and expect from good service. The idea being that this should help their waiters understand parents' needs and help them to help us make it through the day (or at least the bit of the day they spend in PE).

So go ahead - tell Pizza Express what three things would make your day (in terms of service). They can't guarantee to incorporate every single suggestion, but hopefully some themes will emerge that they can build into a realistic Service Charter.

We'll kick off:
Someone helping you with your buggy/ double buggy -rather than tutting when you struggle thro the door
Someone offering you something edible - even if it's just bread and water when you first sit down, and just being nice....
Sharp pencils
Good to get that off the MNHQ collective chest grin , now it's over to you. Everyone who offers suggestions for the Mumsnet /Pizza Express Service Charter on this thread will be entered into a prize draw where one lucky winner will receive £250 of Pizza Express vouchers.

Thanks and good luck

Hulababy Thu 16-Sep-10 18:53:00

Children's desserts that are not just icecream/frozen yogurt. Not all children like it!

Quicker service - we have two PE near here and, although we like the, the service is very slow.

Bring the children's meals first wherever possible.

fryalot Thu 16-Sep-10 18:55:50

colouring sheets to keep the littlies occupied while they're waiting

someone on hand to hold baby/pushchair/changing bag while you sort yourself out

someone to "guard" your stuff while you take a family trip to the toilet.

nameymcnamechange Thu 16-Sep-10 18:57:38

I find Pizza Express to be very child- friendly already.

I'd like to see

1. more choice on their children's menu.

2. smaller servings of drinks available. If you order apple juice or similar you get a great big glassful, a bit much for a pre-schooler.

and, erm, scraping the barrel a bit here

3. a free paper chef's hat for each child? blush.

As I said, I do think Pizza Express is already a great place to go with small children. Its always our number 1. choice anyway. But I would hate to see it become so child-centric that childfree people started to avoid it. Like Giraffe, for eg.

IMoveTheStars Thu 16-Sep-10 19:01:14

I'm actuallly struggling to think, our local one is already extremely good.

1. Somewhere to put buggies. A few I've been in have had spaces near the entrance with plenty of room for pushchairs and it would be excellent if this was standard across the chain

2. Mini pizzas for kids

3. NO separate areas for families with children. Some restaurants/pubs I've been to put all the families in one crappy area at the back so they're out of the way, I'd hate PE to go the same way.

lilmissmummy Thu 16-Sep-10 19:02:45

Definitely some fruit options on the childrens dessert menu.

Space to have pushchair in the building-you cant a pushchair between the tables in our local PE

Vegetarian childs pizza option perhaps with mushrooms, peppers, sweetcorn, pineapple etc

(also agree which the suggestions above!)

IMoveTheStars Thu 16-Sep-10 19:04:26

Sorry, was struggling for service related ones as the local PE is superb when we visit with DS, he's only 2 and they talk to him clearly, ask for his order, offer him a balloon/crayons etc.. very thoughtful.

I swear last time we were there the waitress was so nice to him he blushed a little bit grin

FloraFinching Thu 16-Sep-10 19:06:17

anything that can be done in a half portion (pastas, pizzas, most stuff in fact) should be available in a half portion. Most children I know will eat normal food and have no need for bland alternatives.

Bill to be brought quickly at the end of a meal. My toddler always does brilliantly while we're eating, but gets fidgety if there's a long wait to pay

SparkyMalarky Thu 16-Sep-10 19:06:17

Making space for buggy by the table or at least nearby - there's always something we need from it half way through the meal - we had a great experience at another italian chain restaurant doing this for us recently and it made such a difference.

Bringing the kids' food first - they take an age to eat it and it always needs to cool down.

Clearing the tables of flowers, cutlery etc without being prompted so the grown ups don't end up with 4 glasses in front if them in order to avoid a disaster.

Sounds like it could be great - although I'm not at all keen on video screens in restaurants - kills any chance of conversation!

withorwithoutyou Thu 16-Sep-10 19:07:07

Oooh, yes to snacks for little ones when you first arrive.

The lovely chap in Zizzi (sorry pizza express) brought some dough sticks over for free for DD one when we arrived. Was lovely of him.

FloraFinching Thu 16-Sep-10 19:08:37

actually, I would rather the food all arrives at the same time. I guess the answer is that waiting staff should ask the parents what they prefer.

Faster service
Friendly and pleasant staff that don't look like they can't be bothered and really don't want to be there
Vegetarian options that aren't all mushrooms or peppers
More than just a colouring sheet and pencils for children, doesn't last longer than 30 seconds plus something for the slightly older children to make them feel wanted too
Being able to choose what you want even if it varies from what's actually on the menu, long as they have the ingredients and it isn't vastly different; ie if they offer say a cheese and ham sandwich, being able to get just a cheese one

IMoveTheStars Thu 16-Sep-10 19:09:19

Sparky - excellent point about the glasses/cutlery, such a simple thing and it'd make a big difference

sethstarkaddersmum Thu 16-Sep-10 19:09:27

-baby toys to borrow for children who are too young to colour
-staff being honest about how long food will take - I accept it's going to be longer at busy times but it really helps to know how long so you can plan accordingly (eg take the most troublesome child out for a walk if it's going to be 20 mins)
-easily available cloths or big wodges of paper napkins so when your child spills something you can clear it up yourself without having to wait till you have attracted the attention of a waiter

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sethstarkaddersmum Thu 16-Sep-10 19:10:51

what Sparky said about clearing the table of extra glasses etc - what a great idea!
Or just have child-friendly flowers in child-friendly vases, child-friendly salt and pepperpots etc!

withorwithoutyou Thu 16-Sep-10 19:12:02

I'd like it if the floors weren't wood/marble or any other kind of material that makes the sound of my toddler screaming bounce around the room for everyone else's enjoyment grin

But I realise that that's neither service-orientated or practical.

TheProvincialLady Thu 16-Sep-10 19:15:39

Waiters who understand that placing a hot drink/large drink/any kind of drink next to a small child is going to result in that drink being worn by someone sooner rather than later.

Don't give a balloon at the end of the meal...I know it is a nice thought but it is a PITA to carry round town for the rest of the day and it always gets lost/burst.

Don't keep the kids' food standing under a hot plate whilst the rest of the food is being prepared - burning hot plates and food are not helpful and as someone else said, food for small children needs to cool down before they can eat it.

HinnyPet Thu 16-Sep-10 19:16:59

Definitely a little take-away (maybe drawstring) bag with pencils, colouring in sheets and puzzles that can be used again. (good marketing for PE?)
Agree somewhere, perhaps a cloakroom? for buggies.
Proper highchairs that kids feet can fit into without a struggle, not the type with a detachable tray.
Take all the crap off the tables (salt, pepper, oil and vinegar, fake plants, huge menus on a wooden stand) and replace with little sachets of condiments that are delivered with the meal. Less things for little hands to fiddle with and throw!

i want:

NO steps.

a door that is wide enough to get a double buggy through.

enough highchairs

enough pencils/crayons at the communal colouring area

the communal colouring area to actually be visible from plenty of tables, rahter then just the 2 closest to it

a sign or something you can leave on your table so they know you've taken the kids to the toilet and don't clear your food away

a decent kids menu with vegetarian options

ability to ask for changes in menu items- i have 2 egg/dairy free children and as a result never go to pizza places. but i might if i knew i could ask for no cheese and not a scrap would go on it!!!

NO NO NO interactive video screens. kids don't need screens imo. they aren't all tv junkies incapable of sitting still unless they have a screen in front of them.

BeatrixRotter Thu 16-Sep-10 19:17:45

Half portions for children and grandparents.

Staff to make sure safety belts on highchairs are there and working correctly. DD went through a standing stage and it was a nightmare trying to eat when she couldn't be strapped into the highchair.

Clean toilets

A 'choosing' plate for toddler with little bits of pizza, garlic balls, salad veg, crudites etc.

LadyBiscuit Thu 16-Sep-10 19:22:36

I loved the fact that they brought my son's drink in a plastic cup the other day - that's definitely new from last time.

YY to the non-icecream desserts. They have tried to cater for my son but a big puddle of chocolate sauce and a stack of wafers isn't ideal. I would love a small bowl of fruit.

Something to keep non-colourers occupied would be great - etch a sketches with a pen on a string?

Booster cushions for children who are too big for a highchair but need a bit of help to reach the table.

Child size cutlery.

If you're going to give colouring stuff, a booklet with a couple of different things to do (join the dots, follow the wiggly lines to the different pizza ingredients etc) and spot the pizza delivery man in a crowd would be much better than a flat sheet. It would be great if they changed regularly or there were at least 3 different ones (to encourage repeat visits wink)

Not sure about the video screens - are they going to be in all corners? How are you going to arrange the seats so that the children aren't craning their necks? And sorry, not what you wanted to hear but I want to talk to my kids when I eat with them, not have them staring at a telly.

MarionCole Thu 16-Sep-10 19:22:46

1. Not bringing the children's meals out last
2. Small child sized drinks on the menu
3. Child sized cutlery.

Pizza Express is generally very child friendly though.

Oh, and another one - can you try to cook the kids pizzas first and then leave them to cool a bit before you bring them to the table. Avoids the melt downs that occur when a toddler tries to eat a pizza that's like napalm.

WhatTheWhat Thu 16-Sep-10 19:23:55

Proper changing tables in the men's and in the ladies' loos. And in the disabled loos.

With long paper towel dispenser to cover the changer.

An offer of free nappies/wipes if you've forgotten yours (team up with Pampers).

Food warming service, or even offer of nice free baby food (Plum is good!!) with adult meal.

Provide baby and toddler drinking cups with handles.

Offer filtered tap water as standard.

cakeforbrains Thu 16-Sep-10 19:24:36

I second thisisyesterday - greater awareness of allergy issues in young children. DS2 is allergic to milk (and I'm BFing him so avoiding milk too), but I've stopped going to Pizza Express cos the staff treat me like a freak every time I ask for a cheeseless vegetarian pizza.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Thu 16-Sep-10 19:24:49

I think PE are actually one of the better chains at catering for families, certainly as a BFing Mum I've always been made to feel very welcome and staff haven't batted an eyelid - in fact they have been extra attentive about bringing drinks quickly etc.

A couple of points though.

Please unlock both sides of the double door so that it is actually possible to bring your buggy inside when you have a child who is too little for a highchair (Basingstoke branch yes I am looking at you)

Some dough sticks or something available immediately for children if the parents want.

Do not put down a plate of boiling hot food, or a full glass of wine directly in front of a small child.

EccentricaGallumbits Thu 16-Sep-10 19:27:03

NO video / TV screen!

Free wine for parents when accompanied by a child (really trying here)

FlyingInTheCLouds Thu 16-Sep-10 19:27:50

let kids 'make own pizzas' - pizza with tom, then they add some toppings.

Make the staff as lovely as the ones in Chester where we went the other day and they entertained my baby while I ate smile

Make staff know that holding hot drinks/food over babies/children is not on.

nymphadora Thu 16-Sep-10 19:28:43

More choices of pizza. Not sure about pizza express as none near me so have only been on holiday but most places just do ham/ cheese& tomato.

Also 2 sizes of kids meal one for tinies and one proper half portion for older kids.

Pannacotta Thu 16-Sep-10 19:29:49

Agree with most of the others:
easy to open doors if using a buggy
somewhere safe to leace buggy

child sized cutlery and plastic cups
child sized drinks
taster/tapas plate for kids with more veg choice as well as wheaty things like dough balls/pizza/pasta eg cucumber, oilves, carrots etc

choice of toys/colouring (boys less keen on colouring pencils IME)
quicker service

I do like our local PE - we often take our boys there and its very popular with families (due to lack of other options sadly).

MiniMarmite Thu 16-Sep-10 19:30:21

Checking that the charter is implemented across the board would be important - my local Pizza Express already offers a lot of things I would want so I have taken my DS to others in the hope that they would be the same and found them, sadly, lacking.

The things that are great that we already find at our local one is:
- help with the pushchair on arrival,
- being asked if we would like some doughballs/drink for DS at the point that we are being seated (also asking if Mummy would like some wine grin),
- staff even looking after kids for a few minutes (e.g. offering to show them the pizza being made) while Mum and Dad actually get to eat something!,
- bringing pencils etc straight away, putting hot food/full drinks a suitable distance away from a young child.
- being generally friendly!
- plenty of highchairs
- quick service between courses
- chefs hat!

I would not want any video screens - too much of a distraction and not the type of environment I would encourage my child to eat in - we don't eat in front of the TV at home so would not want to do so when out.

Room for push chairs.

Kids portions of the adult menu available as far as possible.

Intermediate type chairs for children 18 months - 3/4 years who are too big for a high chair/too small for a normal chair e.g. Stokke Tripp Trapp.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Thu 16-Sep-10 19:31:11

A definite NO to video screens. All that will happen then is that meltdown will occur when it's time to sit and eat.

I don't take my toddler out to a restaurant to have him wanting to run off to play areas and whatever, I just want somewhere to go and have a nice meal as a family without being sneered at by waiting staff and being made to feel like a pain in the arse for asking for a sippy cup to be re-filled or for a toddler's food to be brought on a cold plate rather than a scorching hot one.

QOD Thu 16-Sep-10 19:31:41

non fizzy drinks and tap water to be available - went last year in London with 3 11 yr olds and it was excellent. Oh apart from the drinks AND the loos were on a different floor which had an event room which was in use. Bit scary for me to send 11 yr olds off into the realms of drunken party goers.

mazzystartled Thu 16-Sep-10 19:34:24

accessible toilets not MILES away up and down stairs
gender neutral baby change not shared with disabled loo
soft seating area or couple of sofas/"break out space"
doggy bags

deepdarkwood Thu 16-Sep-10 19:35:09

Staff who don't assume kids won't eat adult food (dd is most unimpressed when she doesn't get offered tomato sauce rather than pepper or parmesan smile
Once food is eaten up, kids get much more restless - so if waiters can bring the bill promptly, rather than hanging around once the ide dream is devoured...
I always wonder if there's something cheap that restaurants can give for kids to play with that isn't paper and crayons (miraculously mess-free playdough? tiny bricks?) - just something a bit more play worthy.
I do love places that have books that you can read and return too (much as I hate giraffe in many other ways...)

ShirleyKnot Thu 16-Sep-10 19:35:20

yy about letting kids pizza's cool down a little while sorting out the adults food. Excellent idea.

Love the babychino that they do now, keep up with that.

I <heart> PE and have taken my (<sigh>) bigger children there since they were little ones. They can now eat from the adult menu and so I'm a little out of touch, but there are always lots of younger families when we visit and it's got a great family feel.

TheLimeFairy Thu 16-Sep-10 19:35:32

Taking the kid's ffod out of the oven first so it has a chance to cool down a bit before it is put in front of them!

bulby Thu 16-Sep-10 19:35:33

Vegetarian childrens choices or even better where possible children have the same options as adults in smaller portions.
A snack when waiting for food eg. Breadstick.
Room for buggies to get in and around restaurant and somewhere to put them.
A restaurant that is child friendly but not a playground, we go as a family for a meal and children have to learn social etiquette iyswim.
No clutter on tables ( but please not sachets they are so wasteful)
Smaller but proper cuttlery for wee hands
A reassurance that I will never get the table next to the childrens washing up area lol

deepdarkwood Thu 16-Sep-10 19:36:56

Oh, and another no to video screens(despite loving any interactive gadgets) unless positioned somewhere where kids go and watch/play when adults have quiet eating time. But even then, not totally convinced....

BornToFolk Thu 16-Sep-10 19:37:00

I love the idea of a child's tasting plate. We've never been to PE as a family but have been to Carluccios a few times and we like getting the mixed anti pasti so that we can all share it and DS can try little bits of new things.

As a veggie family, we'd really, really like to see a ban on pasta with tomato sauce on all kids' menus. It's so boring! It's the kind of meal that you make as a quick supper at home, not really what you want to eat in a restaurant.

In general, quick, friendly service is essential, especially at the end of the meal.

Goldberry Thu 16-Sep-10 19:37:02

I think PE is great for kids, but the following would be helpful:

1) plastic cups for kids
2) no black pepper on kids' pizzas (my dd once refused to eat hers and when I tasted it, it was really quite pepper-hot
3) how about selling baby food, even if only one of the ready made but good quality ones (plum organic or something)? I often wonder why cafés don't do this - I'm sure it would make them very popular.

nooooo don't ban tomato pasta!!!! a few years ago i'd have agreed, but it's one of the few things my egg/dairy free kids can actually eat.

unlss they replace with an alternative vegan option, that would be ok

EccentricaGallumbits Thu 16-Sep-10 19:38:37

Got another. may be unpopuler.

No children after 8pm. I like pizza express but not mad keen on othr peoples children around if trying to have an adult meal.

belledechocolatefluffybunny Thu 16-Sep-10 19:41:10

Not charging the parents if their children want a topping on their small pizza, ds likes ham and chicken, I get charged and extra £1 for this, it's the worlds smallest pizza, I'm spending £30 so surly they can give him 4 small bits of chicken and ham free?

The activities are only for younger children and there's not alot of variety. He used to get bored after the second visit as he'd already done the puzzles on a different visit.

There should be a older childs menu. The adult pizzas are too big, the childrens are too small and there's nothing in between for the older child with a bigger stomach then a 5 year old.

More highchairs.

More choice of desert on the childrens menu, it's all ice cream.

Plastic glasses for the little children please.

No TV/games, we go there for family time and so I can teach him manners, parents can't do this if their child is glued to a TV/game.

No loud music please, it destroys the conversation as children are often quiet so the parents can not hear them.

Alot of the adult pizzas that older children eat are covered with veg, this upsets alot of children with a veg phobia. It's often cheaper for parents to order a normal adult sized and ask for no veg, could you do this please rather then splatter the veg on anyway? Could you also swap toppings without charging aswell/give a discount for reduced toppings?

1 - BUGGY PARKING! We have to take our pushchair everywhere as we don't have a car. so to be able to roll into somewhere and there be an area avilable for me to park my buggy (unfolded would be brilliant but folded fine too) would be really helpful.

2- More choice of kids drinks please!! They aren't allowed fruit shoots or coke but they don't want water either!! Apple juice, tropical juice, just water with squash (no added sugar) would be fab! please

3- CLEAN high chairs brought to the table, if an empoyee sees you coming in with the kids please come take our buggy, take us to the table and bring us a clean highchair, one without bits of food all stuck in the cracks and that feels clean rather than greasy!

4- Kids toilets? (too much?) would be great to have smaller loos and lower sinks and soap dispensers for little ones

pebblejones Thu 16-Sep-10 19:42:55

I was offered a highchair last time I went into pizza express, my DS was 2 months at the time!
I would like their service to be a little faster and I would like the waiter/waitress to offer me the bill, rather than me trying to flag them down for 10 minutes... For example "Can I offer you any dessert or coffees? Or do you require the bill?"

Amanderrr Thu 16-Sep-10 19:45:02

Pizza Express is one of the most child friendly restaurants we eat in and it's actually very hard to think of any improvements they could make. The staff are lovely and whenever DS3 drops a toy or crayon someone magically appears and picks it up for him.

As you'd like us to suggest three things to make a meal in Pizza Express better then...

1: Could you turn the thermostat up a little please. Our local PE (Caterham) is always so cold. I've often had to put my coat back on mid meal.

2: Could one of the waiting staff please remove the little glass bottles/vases containing flowers when you sit down at the table if you have children with you as they're a real source of facination to little grabbing hands.

3: Could the cutlery also be removed from the child's place setting until the meal arrives as they create a huge and embarrassing din when they hit the floor repeatedly.

Lotkinsgonecurly Thu 16-Sep-10 19:45:28

Childrens food bought out first.
Tap water and bread basket immediately as you sit down.
Understanding that with children we are likely to want to eat and then get out, when the children start running around we really need the bill.

It would really be nice to be able to have small portions of everything, not just a special 'children's menu'. And not just for children either, my aunt for example has a very small appetite and would much rather have a small portion of a proper meal than either leave loads or try to order from teh children's menu and be told it is only for under-10s.

(not me, I have a big appetite, maybe you should also do extra big portions for greedy people wink)

mazzystartled Thu 16-Sep-10 19:48:06

I hate the idea of video games actually. Pizza Express and restaurants like it give kids the chance to learn how to behave when eating out, screens would ruin that, either kill conversation at the table or kids would be off elsewhere/nagging to go and play them. Awful. Sorry

said Thu 16-Sep-10 19:49:20

I love Pizza Express - have one within walking distance and am wary of it changing too much <have problems dealing with change emoticon>

But, but, but - they always give glasses of water to young kids in tall glass glasses. So, I am constantly having to keep my eye on it tipping. So - short fatter tumblers for kids and straws that bend so no tipping the glass/holding it below table level in order that child can drink

said Thu 16-Sep-10 19:51:21

Agree that it's always a little bit too chilly in there. And always echoey.

Do not like the sound of the interactive video screens at all

Alibabaandthe40nappies Thu 16-Sep-10 19:54:18

Yes ours is always cold as well now I think about it. If it was warmer we would probably stay longer and drink more wine and coffee

Trubbers Thu 16-Sep-10 19:58:56

Extended kids menu/childrens' portions of main menu.

Non-glass glasses for the children?

Highchairs that have cleaned carefully in between uses.

Those small seats on the toilets (or one toilet?), not removable the permanent ones inbetween the normal seat and the lid.

And yes, better general service, I too often have to flag them down for something.

MrsTayto Thu 16-Sep-10 20:02:38

lidded beakers or beakers with straw holes

training staff NOT to put drinks within grab-reach of an under 2


menus for children that they can draw on and circle what they want to hand to waiting staff

paper table cloths and pencils/crayons to draw on it with - best art to be stuck on the walls, or let them rip their bit of tablecloth out and take it home (I've known another restaurant that used to do this)

CMOTdibbler Thu 16-Sep-10 20:03:11

Please do something for those if us with food allergies - DS loves PE, but as I can't have gluten, the only thing I can have is a salad - which isn't v exciting or filling. Must be really hard for gf children.

I like the tiny desserts

Def would be good to get and pay bill faster - our local one is otherwise great (but crammed in, such that wheelchair access is v tricky), but it always takes forever to get and pay your bill

Remembering to leave children's meals to cool for a bit. I remember being v cross at Ask last time we went as DD's food was piping hot still while DH and I were halfway through ours. I asked for a cool dish but they only had warmed ones.

Room for buggies

Plastic beakers and straws

Picky food options, I've seen in a local restaurant 'picnic food' on a children's menu, homous and dippy stuff, that's my daughter's ideal meal

myjeansaretootight Thu 16-Sep-10 20:04:14

We have just been to Pizza Express (so jeans really tight now!).

Agree they are really child friendly already but suggestions are:

1) Slightly bigger tables, we struggled on a small round table with x4 plates, drinks etc

2) Smaller glasses for children

3) Child size pizzas

Trubbers Thu 16-Sep-10 20:06:48

Yes, I agree bigger tables.

NotanOtter Thu 16-Sep-10 20:08:09

agree vegetarian portions 'not all mushroom and peppers'

larger children's portions my children really EAT

fruit salad?

Not sure they need to change much tbh ...disagree with a LOT on here.

Room for buggy by the door maybe but not in restaurant - not nice. Pizza Express nice as it is - why change a winning formula?

NotanOtter Thu 16-Sep-10 20:09:03

i think if you want a lidded beaker you should maybe take your own

Habbibu Thu 16-Sep-10 20:11:51

yy to cooling food, small portions of main meals and NO video screens - the point of taking small children to restaurants is that they learn "social eating" and appropriate behaviour.

Like PE a lot, actually - one thing we found good in Wagamama, though, was staff casually sweeping up the detritus from under high chairs in very friendly and laid back fashion from time to time, so you don't leave slightly ashamed of the carnage on the floor.

c0rns1lk Thu 16-Sep-10 20:12:54

Option to have pizza made up as you want it for children with sensory difficulties who may not be able to handle tomato or cheese

lucysmum Thu 16-Sep-10 20:13:00

training for all staff about how to serve families would solve a lot of these issues.

Other thoughts:
serve kids pudding quickly - can't take long to put some icecream in bowl
pasta sauces not good last time I went, in fact take a look at Zizzi's kids menu - much better all round in my opinionoffers for eating early/kids go free offers

some of these suggestions eg buggies are a bit fanciful imo - if it is a busy small restuarant, there just isn't room for huge buggies - bring the maclaren fold up instead (goes for all other restuarants too)

mamaduckbone Thu 16-Sep-10 20:13:44

1)Child size cutlery.
2)More options on the children's menu (not dough balls as a starter - too much bread.)
3)Quicker bill.

PE is one of our standard places to go with the kids though - the most child friendly restaurant I know.

i love wagamama

aristocat Thu 16-Sep-10 20:14:29

1) nice children's menu that has drawing/colouring with crayons too
2) no unnecessary items on the table -flowers/menu cards etc - remove them
3) plastic glasses for little ones

Habbibu Thu 16-Sep-10 20:15:52

I think the problem with child portions is that it goes from toddler to 10+, and that's a big range or appetites. Not sure how you get round this.

PatriciaHolm Thu 16-Sep-10 20:15:58

Children's cutlery; wipes in the toilets as well as paper; fruit puddings; choice of peas/sweetcorn as well as the side salad (many kids don't eat salad).

Trubbers Thu 16-Sep-10 20:17:01

How about a "viewing stand" where chilodren can stand and look through the glass and watch the pizzas being made?

devilsadvocaat Thu 16-Sep-10 20:18:07

1) plastic plates/cups for kids
2) some sort of family deal (one kids meal free when two adult meals ordered or something)
3) those high chairs for younger babies that are like a car seat

NotanOtter Thu 16-Sep-10 20:20:16

i would be put off by all the plastic stuff

i want my children to be able to eat off a china plate with knife and fork by 3 or 4 years old

sybilfaulty Thu 16-Sep-10 20:22:15

Most of my suggestions have already been made and generally I think PE does a very good job. My suggestions would be:

1. Ask re ice. It is SO annoying when all the drinks come with glasses chock full of ice which I then have to tell DS he can't have. Fine for the older kids, but please ask for those of us with under 2s.

2. Plastic cups as standard. Our local PE has plastic glasses which look the same as the real ones but which bounce. The one in Waterloo has glass glasses which are much more stressful.

3. No video screens. I want my kids to learn that when we are out for lunch, the point is to chat to each other and enjoy each other's company (with drawing etc as required). If I wanted the kids to blob out in front of a screen, I'd have got a PE pizza from Sainsbury's and stayed at home.

I think Pizza Express is already brilliant for family friendliness, however:

- A chair that isn't a high chair, just a higher chair than the normal ones. My 3yo usually end up having to sit on a balled up coat to be at the right height for eating
- Chips on the menu - PLEASE (that's for me, not the DCs)
- Chocolate ice cream on the children's menu

See I told you they were trivial

NotanOtter Thu 16-Sep-10 20:28:33

video screens would mean i would NEVER go to PE

and i have six kids and live a minute from one - please DON'T wink

belledechocolatefluffybunny Thu 16-Sep-10 20:31:25

If you are going to do family offers then remember the one parent families please. I really, really hate places that do a child eats free with 2 adults as there's not 2 adults in our family.

Horton Thu 16-Sep-10 20:32:36

Child sized cutlery would be really great - particularly small forks.

Maybe a small portion of non-spicy pitted olives or crudités or something for a starter instead of dough balls which are WAY too filling (tip, ask parents if they prefer green or black olives as lots of kids will eat one or the other but not both). Or the option to have pizza/pasta and salad first and dough balls second? I'm happy for my child to fill up on bread and butter later if she's already eaten some veg and protein.

Children's drinks to be half the size (and price!) of an adult one and served in a plastic glass that isn't full to the brim to allow for a little accidental tipping. Even the best behaved children sometimes find a full glass hard to manage if they are only small.

Don't assume that children don't want ice. My four year old feels like someone's crowned her queen of the world when a waiter asks her if she wants ice and lemon in her drink.

Would be fab to be able order either a half or quarter portion of other pasta dishes or pizzas - this would help with portion sizes for two year olds and ten year olds.

Some kind of fruity pudding would be great. Even fruit salad with a little ice cream would be an advance on what most places offer.

DO NOT BRING CHILDREN'S FOOD LAST! NEVER!! Unless kids are over about 8 or 10, I suppose. They might be better about waiting then. I don't know yet. It is much easier to entertain a full-bellied three year old while I eat my meal than distract a hungry one while my meal goes cold.

And no hot plates, please.

Also, the colouring etc is lovely, but maybe some sheets of plain paper or just ordinary colouring pictures for kids who are too young to read the (very nice) leaflety thing wouldn't go amiss. And could someone sharpen the pencils occasionally? Or just give us a pencil sharpener and a pot to put the shavings in?

Also, I live in Richmond and would love to be a tester!

I love the idea about a children "picking platter" DS would love something like that.

Smaller drinks for kids would be great.

Im a bit hmm about TV screens, my local PE is in a regency era building with orignal features and I think something like that would look very odd!

A sheet of stickers with some paper and pencils would keep DS very happy indeed.

CupcakesHay Thu 16-Sep-10 20:34:35

Lareger changing rooms, and someone to ask to warm up bottles/food for babies if you have them with younger children too.

And smaller portions, or small salad and quarter of a pizza for adults!

Cicatrice Thu 16-Sep-10 20:38:08

Plastic cups and straws

Option to get Milk/dough balls for child as soon as we are in the door

No hot plates.

deemented Thu 16-Sep-10 20:40:37

Tables big enough to put more than one highchair around it.

TheNextMrsDepp Thu 16-Sep-10 20:41:23

A separate area for those who don't have kids (so yours don't cause embarrassment and attract tuts of disapproval if they get a bit rowdy).

Decent drinks for kids that don't contain junk.

Kids drawing/puzzle packs that change occasionally (if you plan to go more then once a year!!)

Aitch Thu 16-Sep-10 20:42:42

okay i used to like PE, but recently the menu has been absolute garbage. sauce with peppers in it? blech. and where is the summer pudding? i had it every time. stop piddling about with the menu, please.


too cold
too echoey
not enough booth seating ime. this is PERFECT for corralling children.
the high chairs aren't as good as you think they are. just get the ikea ones.
the fun packs for kids are too over-designed, some blank paper will be cheaper and more popular. you don't have to win the kids over to PE, it's pizza, your job is done in that respect. just win over the parents.
agree furiously about the black pepper, PLEASE don't let staff put this on at the pass, my kids won't eat spice at all and i want the option of giving them my food too. (assuming theirs hasn't already been done). don't get me started on nando's in this regard, bloody cooling sauce.
no to video screens, please, just more food, faster and cooler (all kids' food on cold plates). bread, water and olives offered immediately. they don't have screens in italian restaurants and yet it works fine.

in summary, i think you were running a better restaurant ten years ago...

nameymcnamechange Thu 16-Sep-10 20:47:45

Arrrggghhhh, no to cordoning off everyone who has children. I can't stand that.

If your children really can't sit on their chairs and eat a meal at Pizza Express - which amounts to about an hour, tops - then perhaps you should be dining at home until they are more reliable.

I never want to eat in any restaurant, however child-friendly, where its okay for children to get rowdy and run around. Thanks.

charlieandlola Thu 16-Sep-10 20:48:29

A big up to pizza express - they are v child friendly already.

A fab pizza restaurant in Liverpool has breakfast bar seating around the cooking area and a huge pizza oven in the middle. My 2 were entranced watching all the pizzas being made/topped/cooked. Maybe. "viewing bar" ???

Pay the bill up front when ordering like in G B K ?bringing the bill/paying is Almost Always stressful.

No to screens of any description.

Yes Yes Yes bigger tables free of detritus.

No to buggy parking for mahoosive 4x4 trucks. We dont want p e turned into a crèche only. Mixing families with couples etc is one of the nice things.

Cake and fruit options for puddings please

We get chefs hats to colour in at our local in the 'diff.

Rindercella Thu 16-Sep-10 20:52:13

The single, most important, thing for me is for staff to please bring the bill when asked for it and not 20 minutes later. Waiting for the bill is bad enough when it's just adults - it's murder when you have a small child who has just had enough.

Oh, just seen Aitch's comment above re serving kids' meals on cool plates. Abso-bloody-lutely.

Overall though, I like taking the DDs to Pizza Express. It's one of the more chilled-out places to take them (add in lots of big, comfy sofas & I'll be happy smile)

edam Thu 16-Sep-10 20:55:00

My local PE is pretty good. Apart from one nightmarish meal where people were walking out the service was so bad. Bizarrely turned out this was because all the chefs are Muslim and it was Ramadam (this was last year, I knew better than to risk it this year). If you KNOW your staff will be disappearing for 30 minutes at 8pm for religious reasons, get some ruddy cover in. You know it's Ramadam, you know your staff are Muslim, sort it out!

Things that would make it better:

- consistently swift service - they are often good at greeting and seating, bringing menus and taking your order but sometimes leave it too long between courses and it's ruddy hard to catch someone's eye when ds wants a second glass of apple juice.

- greater variety in kids' packs. You have the same ones for about three months and ds doesn't want to do them again and again. It's not exactly hard to do a fresh issue (I work in publishing, I know this is true).

- fresh pasta for kids, not cook-chill processed mush delivered to the restaurant in boxes. yes the pizzas are fresh, but ds likes pasta and tbh I don't see why I should pay £££ for a ready meal I'd get for 1/3 of the price over the road in Sainsbury's. How hard is it to cook some ruddy pasta, fgs?

- the loos are upstairs. Not a problem for ds now but with smaller children having to go up a spiral staircase with open treads is not exactly ideal. Not a lot you can do about that, I guess, but since you are asking...

MinkyBorage Thu 16-Sep-10 20:56:18

I've been to pizza express in muswell hill and it's a shocker. Never enough staff and they don't actually seem to clear the tables, serving puds with used main course dishes still on the table, and I know that this isn't a slagging off session, but I would like to suggest the following:

1) Clear the tables once everyone has finished.
2) Somewhere to put the buggiers, and tables with enough space around them to keep the buggy with you if need be, i.e. if there's a sleeping child in one.
3) Enough high chairs
4)help arranging the chairs rather than just being dumped with too many chairs and a high chair.
4) offered something to eat on entry but not given it unless requested,. Sometimes mine scoff bread and frustratingly don't bother with their main
5) Staff LOVELY with the kids, like they are in carluccios (although it would also be nice to know that the staff are being paid properly)
6) a fish tank or something fun for kids to look at
7) nice light clean not to perfumey toilets, like carluccios
8)recycle the coloured pencils rather than just binning them
9)basic ice cream dessert would be just fine and doesn't need to be a sundae
10) pizzas all well and good but in Pizza express the pastas and salads always seem a bit crap.

edam Thu 16-Sep-10 20:56:45

Oh, and more vegetarian food. It's bizarre that an 'Italian' (ish) restaurant often has only one or two veggie pizzas or pasta dishes. Especially LOTS more veggie risottos, please. Mushroom doesn't count, btw. (I accept it would for most people but I don't like mushrooms.)

edam Thu 16-Sep-10 20:58:18

noooooooooo to a fish tank, poor fish would be traumatised by children jumping up and down and knocking on the glass!

WoodenWalrus Thu 16-Sep-10 20:58:24

Changing area in both mens and ladies.

When I ask for tap water for kids to drink - it's fab when it arrives with slice of lemon, ice and straws - stops them asking for other more exciting (and unhealthy) drinks.

Not just ice cream for childrens' puddings.

I don't know if anyone has mentioned it already,but one of my bugbears is food coming out on plates that are way too hot to be put in front of a toddler or younger child. I know it will mean food cools off quicker, but that wouldn't be a bed thing either!

LifeOfKate Thu 16-Sep-10 20:59:33

Definitely the ability to order a half and quarter portion of anything on the menu, I really hate the concept of kids menus. The idea above of a tapas style plate with loads of different bits to try is a brilliant one, I would definitely order that for DS.
I also agree about the highchairs, I really hate the wooden ones that seem to be in hundreds of restaurants, when they are smallish, they just slide about all over the place in those and the strap is woefully inadequate. DS still has trouble staying upright in it and not slipping now and he is 9 months old. I can never understand why more places don't buy the cheap ikea ones, they are much more supportive, easy to clean and so cheap!
Just mentioned this to DH and he says more space for buggies.
Oh, and I'm another one who hates the video idea.

SirBoobAlot Thu 16-Sep-10 21:03:07

I love Pizza Express. The one locally is one of the best child friendly restaurants I've found.

So, my three things would be:

- Good highchairs. The ones you get in some places, that take three bloody hours to sort out, are not helpful. Simple to use, clean, and easy to move, and preferably with a tray on.

- Complimentary bread sticks on tables. Have had these at other restaurants, and they have been fab to keep DS munching before his food has actually arrived.

- Swift, friendly service. I must admit I have always received this at Pizza Express restaurants, but it is one of the major things that keeps bringing us back!

helpingout Thu 16-Sep-10 21:05:25

free bibs when you forget one

bread on arrival

decent high chairs with toys that can be attached for young children then removed when food arrives

IMoveTheStars Thu 16-Sep-10 21:06:19

The point about somewhere to put the buggies is so that they don't clutter up the restaurant. It's reallt difficult in a smallish restaurant if someone has not other option than to put the pushchair next to the table. Better to have them all in one area out of the way IMO.

Our nearest PE has a huge under-the-stairs- area which is perfect, the staff will offer to carry the pushchair upstairs if needed without even a hint (brilliant).

youknowmeasharimo Thu 16-Sep-10 21:11:30

Doors that actually can fit a buggy through... My local Pizza express can't!

Loos on the same floor (again, my local PE doesn't have this)

Plastic cups (that look like adult cups / glasses)

Booster seats (my 2 YO is too big for a high chair, but not mature enough for an adult chair)

Somewhere to park a big buggy (mine has nowhere to leave it)

And, for the LOVE OF GOD: DO NOT BRING PIZZA TO THE TABLE WHEN IT IS ROASTING HOT... PLEASE let it cool down first. my kids do not know how to wait once they seee the pizza!!

Katisha Thu 16-Sep-10 21:11:51

We go to PE a lot. An awful lot, ever since the boys were about 4 and 6. They are now 8 and 10 and eat from the adult menu.

Please don't kiddify it to the extent that it feels like a soft-play area. I like to go there with just grown-ups as well.

So :

A big no to screens and toys. It's important for children to learn to behave in a restaurant. I am fine with paper and pencils though, and generally still come armed with our own anyway.

Bigger tables definitely.

Yes to something to eat when you arrive. Breadsticks and olives say.

And yes yes yes be quicker about the bill. I hate having to catch the waiter's eye as he or she zips about the restaurant looking everywhere but at us.

Katisha Thu 16-Sep-10 21:12:13

Oh and DS1 (10) would like the orange juice not to be so thick and full of bits.

toomuchmonthatendofthemoney Thu 16-Sep-10 21:15:39

Hate the video screen idea. Would have huge fight to get ds (4) to stay at table/come back over to eat when food arrives. A table with bricks/playdough/even a small train track or cars would be ideal.

Train staff that "warming" a baby's bottle does not mean snatching it away without asking, plunging it into a metal jug of boiling water for about 10 minutes and then bringing it back at nuclear temp and useless, all while my friends baby is yelling head off for milk. Yes Edinburgh, that is your studenty surly waiters i mean.

No tall glass drinks for kids. No ice unless requested for kids. (ds immediately tries to stick his hand in to get the ice out and usually ends in a capsize unless i can grab the glass first.)

Breadsticks nice touch for immediate play/eat.

Staff who speak to kids old enough to understand - talking over their heads is rude IMO and doesn't help them learn to behave/order/interact socially.

Lots of napkins in case of spillage.

Swift with the bill is essential!

mollyroger Thu 16-Sep-10 21:15:59

Look. Pizza Express is fine. It really is. It doesn't need kiddyfying. All it needs is to change the name to Pizza Don't Bother If You Have Less Than 3 Hours In Which To Dine.
Just make it so when you have kids, you don't have to wait 30 mins between courses and we will return.
We have vowed if we ever go again, to bring cobweb spray to spray ourselves with, in the hope the waiting staff get the hint....grin

Lizzylou Thu 16-Sep-10 21:18:09

We don't live near a PE but have visited a few on our travels.

- Kids menu, it is pretty rubbish, there was nothing my DS2 would eat. I agree the ability to order a 1/2 portion from the main menu would be better

- The leaflet thing was very definitely for older children, just some plain paper would be fine or 3 levels of leaflets, so it would be more age appropriate.

- Never mind a Children's picking platter, an adults or family selection would be even better. We went to a nearby pub and ordered 2 different picking platters between us all and my boys ate stuff they never would have normally. I prefer eating like that anyway.

HowsTheSerenity Thu 16-Sep-10 21:18:29

No video screens. I am taking my DC's out for a meal not to the movies.

Smaller child portions. But then again my kids are tall and eat heaps.

Yes to non ice cream desserts.

Confident staff who can tell the parents of the crazy kids to settle them down.

A place to put prams. As a non pram user it does frustrate me when you cannot move anywhere in a restaurant because the prams are blocking all pathways.

Little puzzle books with crayons. I like the cornwall pasty kids box. Copy theirs. Entertaining, things to dress up in but no crappy toy like Mcdonalds.

However, Richmond is my local PE and have never had a problem there.

Horton Thu 16-Sep-10 21:41:30

Richmond PE is usually excellent, you are right. The Kew one is a different matter! I think all the staff in there are half asleep at all times.

said Thu 16-Sep-10 21:46:20

Not a child issue but whilst I have PE's attention - get some bloody sharp knives! Every PE has blunt knives that mean you have to tear your pizza rather than cut it.

Am concerned about PE becoming to creche like from this thread.

nameymcnamechange Thu 16-Sep-10 21:48:21

"Am concerned about PE becoming to creche like from this thread".

Agree. There is a danger your customers without children or with older children will find somewhere a bit more ambient and adult to go to ...

NotanOtter Thu 16-Sep-10 21:49:29

i agree - hence my comments

live and let live - child friendly is not necessarily adult friendly but there is a fantastic middle ground

Aitch Thu 16-Sep-10 21:51:26

you guys should go to Paperinos on Byres Road in Glasgow if you want to know EVERYTHING about serving food to children and adults and keeping everyone happy (and lightly sozzled).

did not know about the pre-cooked pasta, edam, so that's why it is so revolting. i had wondered...

chicken caesar salad, otoh, is delish. [10,500 cals icon]

Alibabaandthe40nappies Thu 16-Sep-10 21:51:32

Yes I agree - special kids area, play tables and screens not needed - but there are lots of great ideas on this thread about making the actual eating a more pleasant and stress-free experience if you have children which are very valid.

Katz Thu 16-Sep-10 21:57:18

PE is one of the few place we et out which both DD's agree on. However my suggestions would be :

more choice on the children's menu
no need for flowers/candles ect on the table - there just one more thing to be knocked over.
jug of tap water on arrival
breadsticks on arrival
make the mini adult desserts (the ones which come with a coffee)available for children.

CheeryCherry Thu 16-Sep-10 22:01:26

- Nibbles on arrival. Chirpy staff too!

- Decent Vegi options, not just margarita pizza or tomato pasta. Decent drink options too - real fruitjuices/smoothies/milkshakes. No sad/suprised/shocked expressions when asking for tap water!

- NO to screens/tvs/other techy gadgets - we go out to get away from them!

-Perhaps - not sure though- paper tablecloths with packs of crayons for the family to decorate...its fun and often v amusing!

mummyofexitedprincesses Thu 16-Sep-10 22:01:30

Being welcomed with a friendly smile and having somewhere to sit if we have to wait for a table.

Children's meals that are smaller versions of adults meals, not just nugget 'n' chips offerings.

I want to feel that I am in a restaurant with my children and expect them to behave accordingly, rather than have the restaurant changed into a play area. I'm not against colouring sheets, however.

nikki1978 Thu 16-Sep-10 22:08:12

The childrens meals to be brought to the table first

Childrens drinks with lids

Wider range of kids meals

Better kids packs or a separate place for them to play - the current packs seem geared to slightly older children who can do word searches etc. Colouring in one picture cannot keep a child amused for long enough to eat a meal sadly!

biggerfeetsmallerboobs Thu 16-Sep-10 22:08:53

I would like them to offer a large bib/sleeved apron, I have a very messy DD and PE tomato sauce is hard to get out of clothes! Also booster seats as well as high chairs for toddlers. And a chance for the kids to get up-close to watch the pizzs being made would be great, although I bet it's not allowed due to Health and Safety!

piprabbit Thu 16-Sep-10 22:09:38

Faster service - we were in our local (Basildon) PE for 2 and a bit hours and had to give up without finishing our meals, we got embarressed that our 2yo was getting noisy/tired and disrupting other diners.
A 35 minute wait between starters and mains to arrive is just not supportable for a young family.

It's not the first time we've experienced slow service in Essex PEs. It's area shame as the rest of PEs offering is very family-friendly, but I'm not sure I can cope with the stress.

singersgirl Thu 16-Sep-10 22:11:37

Pizza Express already has a good children's menu, with salad, dough balls, mini pizza (and they're quite flexible about what they put on it) or pasta, mini dessert and babyccino.

Pet hates from restaurants generally:

Rubbish children's menu that doesn't reflect the main menu and doesn't encourage children to try anything new.
Tall glasses with straws for small children - why? Clearly a disaster waiting to happen.
Chairs that are too heavy or impossible for small children to pull in close enough to the table/no cushions.

Horton Thu 16-Sep-10 22:20:56

>> and doesn't encourage children to try anything new

That is exactly my problem with the PE menu. It is pizza (OK, they let you put what you want on it but charge you a fair bit for the privilege - why not any two toppings from the entire range) or very ordinary pasta. Having said that, it's a lot better than some places so we do still go there. But there is always room for improvement.

PollyTechnique Thu 16-Sep-10 22:21:11

1 Corner booth type tables where you can breast-feed with a bit of privacy.

2 Pile of serviettes in a dispenser on the table - I'm always asking for more!

3 Detailed menus listing all the ingredients - fed up of ordering for a child off the adult menu and finding there's a unexpected ingedient like coarse black pepper or salad dressing that the child doesn't like. Also specifying the fish in a mixed dish (salmon allergy). And making it easier early on to know what the veg of the day is without waiting for the waiter/waitress to try to recall them and having to make a decision on the spot if it suits dc.

BrightLightBrightLight Thu 16-Sep-10 22:23:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

renaldo Thu 16-Sep-10 22:25:30

Less noisy environment, our local PE has bare fllor , windows and stairs and is so echoey.
No to children running around - its never acceptable at any age.
Food fine TBH

SixtyFootDoll Thu 16-Sep-10 22:28:34

Differing size childrens meals
My 10 yr old will eat a lot more than a 2 yr old but not as much as me.
And child friendly 'nibbles' breadsticks, pringles etc

1. When someone has children with them, giving the crayons and booklets without being asked, and when you do, bringing a pot with more than three crayons, when there are two children

2. Breadsticks on arrival would be quite nice

3. Maybe other puddings available for children?

My children are 4 and 6 and we go to Pizza Express occasionally. Is generally a good experience

mine would be good highchaors and booster seats for the older ones that arent quite big enough to sit in normal chairs. A good supply of tea spoons for babies and extras for the kiddies who love to drop everything.

chairs that are possible to breastfeed in without banging arms or babies heads.

Somewhere to warn a bottle without having to always ask a staff memember.

Colouring for the kids with sharp pencils

Staff NOT to carry hot food and drinks over the kids heads

A quick way to pay without having to wait for the bill (maybe bring with puds) because trust me once the kids have finished I just want to get going before they wreak the place.

AbFabT Thu 16-Sep-10 22:34:31

- more vegetarian pizza options (we don't all like mushrooms!), OR, the ability to choose, say, five vegetable toppings and the price remain £8.00ish, and not get charged £1 per go just because I want to swop a couple of items from one of the vegetarian pizzas, which end up making it cost £12!
- vegan cheese option pleeeeeease!
- free bottles of water without having to ask, like Strada provide.
- vegan dessert that ISN'T boring old fruit salad
- fresh squeezed fruit juice

(sorry, that was five!)

Aitch Thu 16-Sep-10 22:38:40

i hope MN are being paid A FORTUNE for this focus group, btw. this is solid gold stuff here, if PE has the sense to see it.

fruitful Thu 16-Sep-10 22:48:13

- toilet cubicles that are clean and big enough to get me and a couple of children in and still close the door

- some really plain food on the menu, such as cheese sandwiches or jacket potatoes with cheese. Dh, dd, and I all love pizza and pasta. Ds1 and ds2 view them as cruel and unusual punishment.

- wet wipes / baby wipes for cleaning up the post-eating disaster zone that is my sons. I mean, I bring my own, but if you're talking about excellent service ...

sethstarkaddersmum Thu 16-Sep-10 22:48:45

the highchairs have to not have broken straps. Honestly, sometimes it feels like the majority of restaurants we go to (not PE) have highchairs with broken straps.

sethstarkaddersmum Thu 16-Sep-10 22:49:28

and there have to be enough highchairs, not 2 for the whole restaurant (though I'm sure you've thought of that).

Message withdrawn

NotanOtter Thu 16-Sep-10 22:51:43

clean loos would be good

TheFallenMadonna Thu 16-Sep-10 22:56:37

An in-between menu would be helpful. DS is 9 and a children's menu is either too small or too limited, and an adult meal is both a little too large and too expensive.


I love our local Pizza Express - when it's quiet. I'd agree with others that the service can be astonishingly slow, given the nature of the restaurant (not like it has a complex menu involving lots of fancy plating up in the kitchen, after all). So my one big request would be the same one I would aim at a lot of restaurants - serve me. Keep serving me. I do not cease to exist when I've had all the food I've ordered, which is a good job as far as you're concerned, as otherwise I wouldn't pay. Amazing how many restaurants ignore you when all you have left to do is ask for the bill - annoying at the best of times, but screamingly frustrating when you have a small child which has reached the end of its sitting-still tether.

Tikkabillajive Thu 16-Sep-10 23:13:29

Love pizza express and think the children's menu they do at the moment is great (although the side salad is literally one titchy bit of cucumber, half a cherry tomato and a tiny bit of pepper!)

My suggestions would be:

Breadsticks and olives on arrival to immediately placate hungry children.

Waiters/waitresses who are able to spot when a child has reached the end of his/her sitting still ability and can pick the perfect moment to lead them over to watch the pizza chefs while the harassed parents at the table, who are desperately regretting their attempt to bring their children out for a 'relaxing' lunch, have two blessed moments of peace to finish their food.

Really good colouring/activity packs, maybe things to spot, or wipe clean doodle cards, or a game that can be played at the table. Stuff that toddlers can do too - maybe blank paper best? And decent crayons/pencils. Or what about a scribbler thingy like this to borrow? (Jamie's Italian near us has the kids menu on a retro style viewfinder which is a BIG hit). I'm not keen on the colouring table idea - if we go out for lunch it's because we want to spend time as a family, I don't want to be struggling to keep the kids at the table with us. And it sounds too much like some sort of creche!

Olives available that aren't marinaded in chilli - lots of kids LOVE olives!

Doors that can't be escaped through easily by a bolting toddler...

Agree that the video screens sound like a BAD idea.

Message withdrawn

tkband3 Thu 16-Sep-10 23:18:09

My DDs all have coeliac disease and consequently our eating out choices are limited. Pizza Express is great because we take our own gluten free pizza bases and they cook them for us.

But, given the increasing prevalence of gluten/wheat allergy/intolerance, why not offer your own gluten free pizza/dough balls. All the major supermarkets now have own-brand gluten free pizza bases and there are many other types available - it would be very easy to source a good supplier. Ditto gluten free pasta - Carluccio's do gluten free pasta (although only one variety), and it is extremely readily available.

Given that when we bring our own bases, we are only charged for the toppings (for which I am very grateful), but if you offered gluten-free alternatives you could charge full price for them, I would have thought this would make sense.

Definitely no video screens - we go out to lunch to have some enjoyable family time, not to stare at a screen without talking to each other for an hour or so. And surely the separate colouring areas will simply encourage more children to run around, and be a distraction from eating with their families. Agree with those who've said plain paper/simple pictures for colouring in. Word search games are not that great unless you can read and spell!!

Please please, if you plan to do a buffet lunch for set price, DO NOT charge for kids stupid prices when they eat 2 pieces of pasta and a slice of bread!!

Make sure highchair straps are cleaned, doesnt take much to put them in washing machine.

Mumi Fri 17-Sep-10 00:18:24

I've only ever been to Pizza Express once (Charlotte Street) and have never been back. Quicker, more polite service and less crowding of tables, please. I was fine with DS in a sling but a buggy would have been impossible.

General restaurant wishes:

- Basic first aid trained staff. Don't just watch from afar when a child is choking and not even offer a free drink of water afterwards (as happened in one of your competitors branches)

- Children's food first and at appropriate temperature

- Crayons in a pot so they don't roll away while swapping colours, leading children to fetch them off the floor and smack their heads on the table on the way back up

- Don't offer things directly to children without consulting parents first if you want a quiet restaurant. You don't know whether they can have depending on allergies, what they want to spend etc.

- Educational information about pizza making on colouring sheets for older children, or viewing window

- Illustrate each item on menus, with photographs not drawings

- Many autistic children will refuse to even enter the premises if they can hear music playing too loudly

- NO SCREENS! Bookcases clearly visible from each table with a range children's books

- Fruit juice without bits

- Plastic cups - the ones with a curly straw through a lid that can seal the cup are good

- Squeezy condiments bottles, not sachets

- Turn the temperature down. I know eating seems to raise the body heat but shivering waiting or food or others to finish is no fun.

IMoveTheStars Fri 17-Sep-10 01:28:43

Mumi - it's not a frigging creche! hmm

stillcrying Fri 17-Sep-10 07:04:36

I think PE in general is pretty good but the order in which food arrives can be baffling - we ordered kids' menus and just a starter for me, and my starter came first and the children has to wait. Just ask when we want things if you cant work it out.

Not really a staff training point but a lower sink in the loos would help as dd can go on her own but cant wash her hands.

Make your own pizza is a great idea - bring the base and the toppings, let them do it then bung it in the oven.

HowsTheSerenity Fri 17-Sep-10 09:38:41

It does seem that the majorty of posters have quite young children. I do hope that PE is not going to turn the RIchmond store into a creche. It is the place where a lot of the older kids (aged 8 -12) in the area have birthday parties. If it became a Charlie Cheese kind of place then I know I would take myself and the DC's elsewhere.

grumpypants Fri 17-Sep-10 09:44:14

Child sized cutlery

Booster seats incorporated into the chair design so that they don't get grubby underneath and so teeny five year olds don't have to get wedged in high chairs/ reach up to eat

Box of wet wipes on the table

TheProvincialLady Fri 17-Sep-10 09:51:35

Free bibs, free baby food, free masses of toys and activities?hmm Does one else agree that if you have children you should expect to feed, clothe and entertain them at your own expense? It's a restaurant for everyone, not a nursery.

notnowbernard Fri 17-Sep-10 09:56:17

Colouring-in equipment given to children on arrival

Children's food to be served first

Staff to ask the PARENTS first if the child can have pudding, not the child!

Adequate space to store a buggy/pram etc

a gluten free option would be fantastic. We love Pizza Express as a family, but we take a gluten free base for DS1.

I would love it if there was either a) a gluten free pizza base or b) a gluten free option that was child-friendly.

It's only a small thing, but they've even got rid of the risotto now, so there is literally NOTHING he can have.

That would be amazing. I'll even bring my own pencils if they did grin.

ShirtyGerty Fri 17-Sep-10 09:57:46

Staff that keep their eye on their tables and use a bit of judgement! I can't stand it when they interrupt you during each course to ask if your food is ok and then when you need the bill they are nowhere to be seen.

Tables that are not too close together so that you have a bit of room to manouvre.

Traning for staff on how to adjust their service for a table with children (getting plastic cups, asking children who are old enough for thei own choices etc). When I worked as a waitress I was a student. I didn't have a clue how to deal with kids and a little bit of know-how would have gone a long way.

Sorry tkband3 I appear to have cross-posted with you!

Incidentally, at our local Pizza Express, we still get charged full whack for DS1 even though we do bring the base! A consistent policy would be good.....

TheChewyToffeeMum Fri 17-Sep-10 09:59:46

Helping people through the doors - not just buggies, people with mobility issues or even just lots of shopping.

That's about it really - I agree with TheProvincialLady on this. I don't expect special entertainment for my kids just polite helpful service for everyone.

heaintheavy Fri 17-Sep-10 10:01:11

I would like to see:

- much, much faster service (our local one is so tardy we think twice now before going). THIS IS THE REALLY IMPORTANT ONE.
- friendly service (usually pretty good on this) with chatty staff who interact with my children.
- as wider range of children's menu items and / or option to have half ortions off the full menu.
- better children's activities while waiting (they have really gone downhill over the past 5 years). Colouring in, stickers, there were once fab threading cards - we loved those.
- NO, NO to separate communal children's areas, and NO, NO, NO, NO to video screen games. I go to the restaurant to be with my children, plus two of my three need a high level of attention (age and disabilities). Places with separate children's areas put me off.
- jugs of free water and breadsticks on arrival.

mummytime Fri 17-Sep-10 10:05:54

Staff who like kids! (Petit Blanc are very good at this btw.)

llareggub Fri 17-Sep-10 10:09:01

If the plate is too hot for the waiter to carry without a cloth then it will be too hot for a pre-schooler. Common sense, really.

I just want some basic things like plastic cups, small cutlery and a slightly bigger table. My eldest son is 4 and fine with a glass, I'd only expect it for our toddler.

We bring our own toys and books, and thought that most people would. But keep a supply of wipes and bibs, I often forget these.

watercress Fri 17-Sep-10 10:15:10

1) Booster cushions for those too old for high chairs and too small to reach the table properly

2) Children's food on cold plates

3) Better salad on the piccolo menu - a couple of bits of tomato and pepper is not a salad!

Merrylegs Fri 17-Sep-10 10:20:15

I have been to the Pizza Express in Richmond. It is like eating in a creche. What would make my day in terms of service would be to know that the patient staff, cheerful in the face of screaming kids, flying dough balls and indifferent parents, were being paid enough to work in an environment which is largely similar to that of feeding time at the zoo.

tattycoram Fri 17-Sep-10 10:21:48

Do not bring children's food unless it is cool enough for them to eat.

Breadsticks for children while waiting vg idea.

NO NO NO to seperate children's areas and to video screens my DS would never sit down and eat in those circumstances and I want us all to sit down together.

Our branch doesn't have any pencils/ paper at all - something to play with would help in the wait to be served (I DO bring things for DS, but those little packs of pencils were good)

serenity Fri 17-Sep-10 10:37:18

We tend to go to Pizza Express for family birthdays (so mixed ages) and it's nice, enough like the dreaded Hut to please my kids but restauranty enough to satisfy the adults.

Gripes already mentioned, that I agree with include the restaurants being chilly and very noisy, and the incredibly long waiting times. Last time we went to one (Oxted), we actually decided against a dessert because we'd spent so damn long in there already and we still had to go for the ploy of getting our coats on and heading for the door in order to get the bill!

Suggestions I like... being able to get half size portions of adult meals. That would be fantastic.

serenity Fri 17-Sep-10 10:43:17

Merrylegs I have to agree with that. I often go to lunch in Richmond with friend who has no children (by choice) and it's the one pizza place we've never gone in, because she says it's overwhelmed with small children during the day. TBH if I'm getting the luxury of a relaxing lunch without my three, I'd rather go somewhere child-unfriendly, but I think I have a greater choice in that than the other way around!

My PE at the bullring is great, go there all the time.

Only thing I'd add is could you make a parents room/changing room for babies. ours doesn't have changing facilities even in the ladies. hmm

Already been said but i'll repeat. When I say bill please. I mean bill please now grin Once DCs are done it's time to get out of there asap.

notso Fri 17-Sep-10 11:02:11

No screens, no toys, no separate childrens play/colouring area, these are all reasons why I like Pizza Express.

No plastic plates or cutlery but child sized knives etc would be nice.

Love the idea of a brunch menu, I would also like to see a lunch menu with smaller portions than the regular menu.

WRT good service,
I would like to have the choice of colouring stuff or not, I don't go for a meal with my family to spend the whole time doing a wordsearch with DS.
It would be good if they were just offered as in "there will be a 20min wait for food, would you like some colouring things for the children?"

I would like to not be always offered a crap table in a half empty restaurant just because I have children with me.

I would like to be not looked at like a stingy old cow if I ask for a large adult sized drink of fruit juice or similar and two glasses so DC can share it.
One of my pet hates is having to fork out for massive expensive but nice drinks that are too big for them to drink so get wasted.

Not so much service related but a junior menu would be great, DD is 10 and although she will greedily happily eat adult portions, they especially puddings are too much for her but she feels childrens sizes are too small.

Hope PE isn't going to change too much though.

titchy Fri 17-Sep-10 11:12:56

Can't realy add much, particularly as dcs are now older. But quicker service without a doubt. They're very quick to seat you and take your order, but somewhat lacking when it comes to serving your food and bringing the bil.

titchy Fri 17-Sep-10 11:15:29

Oh actually - noise! Loads of restaurants these days (my word I sound old!) have tiled floors, walls, minimalist-type of style. The result of which is an echoey noisy place where you can't hear yourself think. Perhaps some soft furnishings, curtains, or something that absorbs the noise?

cakeywakey Fri 17-Sep-10 11:22:45

I think most people have covered it really but I'd agree to the big fat no to interactive screens - I'd never get my toddler over to eat if she was engrossed, and like other posters, I take her out to eat to learn manners and be sociable.

Toilets (am a bit obsessed!)
- decent sized cubicles that I can take my toddler into without brushing the sides and without literally sitting on the sani bin please
- the inset seats that toddlers can also use would be fab
- toilet roll where you can take a decent amount off, not those piddly sheets that you need half a tree of
- good sized baby changing areas (like John Lewis have) with padded mats and disposable paper to line them with
- plenty of hooks to hang handbags and changebags, it's horrid having to put them on the floor
- nappy bins that are regularly emptied to stop you almost passing out when you open them. And please can they be foot-pedal operated
- all toilets to be cleaned throughout the day, not left to fester

Apart from that I would also like toddler meals brought up first - on a cool plate - so that I can cut it up and check it's not too hot, without getting peeved that my lunch is also rapidly cooling.

Toddler cutlery would be great. I normally bring my own if I know we're going out, but it would be fab for it to be offered as standard.

I also agree with TheProvincialLady that there has to be a limit to the amount of stuff that you can expect restaurants to provide free. Bring your own bibs, wipes and baby food - the cost will always be passed on anyway so they're never really 'free'.

And finally, I also like going to PE without children so would be dismayed to see it becoing too child-centric. Children need to learn to eat out in places that are designed for all ages. Some consideration is great, and things like toilet seats that meet their specific needs, but my DD loves going to 'grown-up' places too. Please strike the right balance PE smile

Alibabaandthe40nappies Fri 17-Sep-10 11:24:29

TPL - I agree. I expect to have to take wipes, plastic cup, small books/toys with me when I go out to eat with DS. There is no need for the restaurant to provide them.

It is a restaurant, not a playgroup. Some of the suggestions people are making here are bonkers.

Agree about the salad on the piccolo menu, it is ridiculous.

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Fri 17-Sep-10 11:32:46

The reason PE aren't always happy to let you have a half portion of their pasta is that their pasta dishes are delivered to their branches (I stop short at calling them restaurants) frozen in the earthernware dishes that they serve them in.

PE pizzas are child sized already.

Can you guess, I'm not a fan? wink

To add to other comments:

1. Please do not have separate child play area/video screens etc. we go to PE because they DON'T have these things and we want to eat as a family.

2. Larger tables with room for highchair/buggy.

3. Smaller pizzas for smaller appetites (eg create a pizza using the side order size of garloic bread).

4. Cold plates or cooler food.

5. Booster seats for older kids (Spain is great for these)

6. pencils and colouring books for the table.

7. Plastic glasses for kids.

8. Fast service or free bread/breadsticks on the table.

9. properly paid & trained staff who don't get flustered by noise or small toddlers who throw food etc etc and who genuinely want to make it a happy family experience.

10. Room between tables to push a buggy or a buggy 'store'

Btw, love the idea of all day opening with smaller snack type things for mid-morning stop off.

tkband3 Fri 17-Sep-10 11:37:41

<slight hijack> notwavingjustironing - we used to be charged full whack too, but discovered that if we didn't order the kid's menu, just using our pizza base, but instead ordered a margarita on our base, then they just charge for the toppings (and we've done this in 3 or 4 PEs now). In fact the last time my mum took them to our local PE (in Southgate, North London), they didn't even charge for the toppings! We do get them an ice cream (without the cone), which they charge us for separately.

TeaOneSugar Fri 17-Sep-10 11:38:50

Please appreciate that a parent eating alone with a child may have to leave the table to take said child to the toilet - this does not mean they've finished eating and have left (coats and shopping bags still at the table is a big clue here).

Please don't clear the table while we're gone - even if it looks like the child has finished they might want to eat the crust when they get back.

nymphadora Fri 17-Sep-10 11:39:21

Oh yes, decent sized toilets. I couldn't get in the one in Pizza Hut last week with my pg belly even if I left the crutches outside!

-Would like to be able to leave the buggy by the table, rather than in a "buggy park" so I can leave the baby in the pushchair if he's asleep.
- some sortof "baby pack" that maybe had chunky crayons and very simple pictures to colour, a small baby wipe pack and a free to take away spoon???
- Lower sink in the toilets for younger kids??

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Fri 17-Sep-10 11:44:13

In a similar vein to TeaOneSugar - we understand that all fast food joints want a rapid turnover of tables, but please be less obvious about it. IME PE are dreadful for making you feel that you've overstayed your welcome (which is even worse if you've had to wait an extraordinary length of time to actually get your food).

kveta Fri 17-Sep-10 11:45:06

cold plates for children's food

decent high chairs (the IKEA ones are not expensive!)

snack plate is a great idea for littles - we went to Zizzis when DS was 4.5 months old and he snatched an olive (which DH and I abhor, but it was on the plate...) and some bread from my plate and ate them (his first forays into BLW...) - nowadays he'd love a plate with lots of options on it, and not just bland kiddie options either - proper food, like artichokes, some meats, olives, cheese, nice bread - basically the same as an adult selection but smaller.

clearing the table of breakables for parents is a brilliant idea too!

We rarely eat out since DS arrived but may be tempted back into pizza express to check it out with a toddler!

lankyalto Fri 17-Sep-10 11:45:31

I haven't been to a PE but some of the things I would like in restaurants generally are:

Child-sized cutlery (V. cheap but makes a huge difference to children)

Booster seats available as well as high chairs

DEF no video screens, for all the reasons already mentioned

Children's food not to be served on hot plates (common sense)

Variety of portion sizes in children's meals. At a pub recently my ds was given a 4oz steak with a mountain of chips the same size as my portion. He ate one bite of steak and two chips (but gobbled all the peas)

Better choice of children's food. Not all children like nuggets and baked beans. Another pub nearby does a mix and match thing where you can have chips/mash/rice/jacket spud with fishfingers/sausage/chicken breast and peas/beans/sweetcorn/carrots

Toilets without hand dryers (my ds is scared of them) and with steps to wash hands (again, and makes a big difference)

fluffyhamster Fri 17-Sep-10 11:47:46

OK, I am going to be the voice of doom here, but I think making PE more family-friendly by introducing more special stuff for kids is a REALLY BAD IDEA.... sorrysad

The reason (IMHO) why it is has been so successful is because it has been a nice 'bridge' between crappy 'fast food' type outlets (MacDs, Pizza Hut, TGI etc) and 'proper' restaurant for Mum & Dad.

As soon as you make it TOO kid-friendly and day-glo with screens/ buggy parks/ kids activities etc they will just drive away the people who go for (relatively) quiet, 'semi-proper' meal....

I don't want plastic cups and toys and loads of colouring etc - I want my kids to learn how to behave in a proper restaurant without making it a kids play area...

At the moment you get a nice mix of families AND couples/ even business people etc. This sort of initiative will drive away the latter two groups.

It will just become a buggy/toddler-fest...

Certainly change/improve the service side of things (something to nibble quickly/ bill coming quickly etc) but please don't turn it into a kid's play area with designated buggy park <shudder>. Isn't that what Pizza Hut is for, at half the price?

tattycoram Fri 17-Sep-10 12:00:43

I really do agree with fluffy

Some tweaks would be welcome, but please don't go too mad

nameymcnamechange Fri 17-Sep-10 12:02:49

Many others have said the same as you on the thread fluffy. Including me at the third post in. I really hope PE are listening!

Aitch Fri 17-Sep-10 12:05:00

just make the food taste nicer, that would be great.

RoscoPColtrane Fri 17-Sep-10 12:14:32

Childrens menu's that offer different portion sizes would be good, and as lots of others have said more pudding choices for them.

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Fri 17-Sep-10 12:19:06

I second that, Aitch.

picc Fri 17-Sep-10 12:22:31

I find PE very child-friendly already. The staff are always extremely friendly and helpful. In fact, if this is going to someone at PE, can they please make sure they pass on my thanks and compliments to the Norwich Forum branch for being so lovely?

A group of us met there very regularly when DCs were younger, cos it was always such a pleasant experience.

sorry haven't read all 7 pages, but

1) a few more highchairs would be good
2) plastic (but re-usable!) cups/ crockery for children
3) excellent idea to have a few little things for little kids to pick at when looking at the menu


NoelEdmondshair Fri 17-Sep-10 12:25:39

Agree with fluffy.

DD and I love PE (just please bring the bill promptly) smile

AbFabT Fri 17-Sep-10 13:57:33

Adding a vote for the gluten-free base option.

CMOTdibbler Fri 17-Sep-10 14:57:27

And, PE, you do realise that the dietary needs of one member of a family will often influence the choice of where to eat of a big group. Much as DS and DH like PE (and I like the coffee/puddings), I overrule their choice to go to the little place down the street that does gf pizza instead.

You can keep gf bases in a freezer, so it isn't a bit financial risk either. Combine that with some vegan cheese available, and you've covered off two of the biggest food allergies, and increased your customer draw

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Fri 17-Sep-10 15:29:27

How allergic are people as a rule, to gluten?

To be fair on PE, I think it would be difficult to ensure that no flour at all came into contact with a gluten-free base, and smaller iirc branches only have one pizza oven (and no normal oven). They also have very small cooking areas and the flour gets everywhere.

The little place down the road probably has a standaard oven they can use. I suppose they could use separate trays, though, and prepare gluten-free pizzas away from the main cooking area, in the bit where they rinse the out of date bags of salad picking out the slimy bits lovingly prepare their freshly bought salad leaves.

Salt-free finger food for teenies - served as soon as possible, not when the rest of the food is ready

A glass of tap water given to mums who are breastfeeding - it's what they need, and shows the restaurant is supportive

Have stopped going after was given dirty looks and glares from some of the staff at the one in Braintree for daring to ask for butter with garlic in for doughballs and getting a pizza base with next to no toppings on when we were using some of their vouchers - staff were rude and horrid and even made DS feel uncomfrtable.

notcitrus Fri 17-Sep-10 15:43:12

Went to PE Streatham last w/e.
Was generally impressed with treatment - we had 2 adults 2 toddlers and as we got in were given the baby menu and asked if we wanted something ordered immediately - so by the time we'd ordered a baby pizza with two plates arrived. Once they got through most of that, they put pencils and puzzle/colouring books near us which were rather good. Also got plastic glasses and straws without asking.
And there's now a changing table in one of the ladies loo cubicles, didn't check the gents.

Less good - small revolving door. If you need pushchair/wheelchair access you have to go to the other door which always has a table in front of it and ring the bell (there's a step, even though it could easily be removed to provide wheelchair access.
And they forgot part of our order, but took it off the bill without asking. The chap taking our order didn't speak enough English to understand words on the menu, so was clearly very stressed.

Minor point - most of the pencils were yellow and too blunt to use! And there wasn't a sign to say that there was a change table hidden in the cubicle, so if it had been occupied I'd have assumed there wasn't one.

Would love communal play area, but not videos. Kids too old for puzzle book/colouring can bring their own books.

Mumi Fri 17-Sep-10 15:48:09


Which of my ideas in particular lead you to believe I am asking for a creche?
That was uncalled for.
All I've done is post some ideas as per the OP based on safety, comfort, entertainment and inclusion of disabled children (many of which are concurring with or developing upon points already made by others, which you didn't see fit to comment on).

I'm sure PE are more than capable of choosing those ideas they feel are the most helpful, reasonable and feasible from this thread, so kindly keep your hmms for the people would actually insist on every item in their list being granted - NOT me.

While I'm at it: similarly to the music point, many autistic children dislike hand dryers which are too loud. There was a quiet one which DS used the other day and had absolutely no problem with for the first time. If I rememeber the make I'll post but I think there are quite a few available now

UnquietDad Fri 17-Sep-10 15:48:25

Was this a Product Test By Stealth then?

edinburger Fri 17-Sep-10 16:06:59

Generally love PE

Agree re extra hot pizza in front of small child

Would love if they had

Child price drinks.

I resent paying over £2 for a tiny beaker of apple juice!

Plus if your child spills their (overpriced) drink it would be nice if they helped you wipe up and offer a refill rather than just ignore you (just happened to me so am a bit bitter!)

If they are doing coffee brunch would be nice if they had newspapers / magazines - so if DS gets absorbed in his colouring in / playing with cars I have something to do rather than to state into space!

going Fri 17-Sep-10 16:16:31

Last time I went to Pizza Express the were short staffed and where telling people they would have to wait 2 hours for food! We were told the same but stayed as I didn't want to disapoint my children - we had our food with 30 mins! Makes me feel like they were being lazy.

A childs drink included with in the price of the menu would be good even if it's just water or squash.

Making sure the childrens food has cooled down before presenting it to the child.

CAn't think of anything else as my local one is generally pretty good at keeping the kids happy and looked after.

prettybird Fri 17-Sep-10 16:29:08

Have to day that our "local" Pizza Express (Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow) is already very child friendly.

Unfortunately, ds (10) prefers Pizza Hut because of the Icecream Factory. However, I am not suggesting that Pizza Express follows suit grin Ds is only gets the choice of going to PizzaHut once a year, when it is his birthday (we suffered our annual outing last week wink).

In terms of service, asking what the children want to drink straight away and bringing it in squat and/or plastic glasses (as appropriate for the age) with a straw straight away would help give the adults some time to look at the menu at their leisure. In addtion to offering free tap water, maybe they could offer free cordial at this stage.

1. Have 'Half portions ' available of all things on the menu rather than a kids' menu with just a few dull options.

2. Have an area where the children can wander off to when they have finished e.g. lego table.

3. Don't bring a bowl of sizzling hot pasta to the table for a toddler- they want to dive straight in- let it cool a bit 'behind the scenes'
We love pizza express though and have aways found it pretty family friendly tbh.

nowherewoman Fri 17-Sep-10 16:45:23

A sort of enclosed area for the tables so if a toddler wants to wander around a bit, they'll be safe and can't run out into the road.

Maybe you could order and pay in advance on line so you don't have to wait when you get there?

Nappy changing stuff available in case you've forgotten anything.

ramonaquimby Fri 17-Sep-10 16:47:20

gawd after reading this I will remember never to go to PE in Richmond, sounds like it would be a nightmare with all these requests (does no one else chuck a few crayons in their bag and a notepad for your kids when going out?) Richmond PE is my local too

all these changes will mean increased prices, who wants that?

agree with fluffyhampster

trice Fri 17-Sep-10 17:02:04

A paper bib would be nice.

Catilla Fri 17-Sep-10 17:05:30

On service: Expecting families to order the whole meal soon after sitting down (we know the menu by heart!) and not waiting ages and then offering to take a drinks order.

And I haven't read the whole thread but one of the few things which gets to me about PE is the fixed children's menu.

- I'd like to see prices for having part of the children's menu but not all of it.
- I'd like a drink included in the price, and not for an extra £2+. The kids don't need a big & fancy apple juice - they are happy with a small one. Or (as I saw in TGIs in the USA) include a squash or something cheaper, with an upgrade option to fancy juice.
- Also offer a supply of water... mine often down the juice within seconds (while waiting for food...) and then have nothing to drink when they need it because they've stuffed with food.

Great initiative, PE!

SpawnChorus Fri 17-Sep-10 17:43:22

OMG some of you lot are precious...providing bibs and beakers? Offering green OR black olives hmm

I think PE would be fucking horrible if half the suggestions of here were followed up.

Two words for those who want a creche-like restaurant experience: Pizza Hut.

Agree with:

clearing away extra glasses etc

Swift bill-paying

viewing area for watching pizza-making would be cool

I'm glad that PE now offer a pot of "pre-loved" pencils rather than the packets of pencils which I felt obliged to keep in the linty depths of my handbag.


LilyBolero Fri 17-Sep-10 18:40:37

Definitely find Pizza Express child friendly already.

PLEASE don't put video screens in - I HATE screens, and it is hard enough dragging them away from screens as it is, without having them when we go out as well, especially to a restaurant.

yy to hating balloons too, I definitely do, loathe having to take them home at the end.

Re food - make sure it is possible to mix and match - so if a child will eat pasta, but not tomato sauce, likes peas but not sweetcorn, make it possible to mix and match ingredients.

4andnotout Fri 17-Sep-10 18:53:40

A safe secure area to park pushchairs.

Smaller drinks portions.

Perhaps more varied deserts, my dd's seem to prefer a bowl of chopped grapes, apples and pears over icecream at the moment.

Smaller cutelry and perhaps serviette bibs?

A range of highchairs, booster seats and plenty to go around.

Firawla Fri 17-Sep-10 18:55:39

Childrens menu to have a good vegetarian choice on it not like only 1 vegetarian item, but 2 or 3 to chose

Children sized cultery and childrens cups available like with a straw or some kind of closed cups as you dont always bring it, or the option to get juice boxes as a drink

Children's colouring things to do

Staff having a friendly attitude towards the children

detoxdiva Fri 17-Sep-10 18:57:42

Think that Pizza Express are very family friendly already and often take the dc's there as a special treat. My suggestions would be:

While colouring pencils and book is good for older children, how about some baby friendly toys that can be attached to the high chairs for the 1+ year olds who are going through their 'throw everything on the floor phase'!

When it's a bit quieter perhaps asking if the dc would like to go and see their pizzas getting made.

Bring dc meals out with adult starters

1. Quicker service. Particularly when it comes to the bill. So many waiting staff disappear when you have had your main course. Quite often I find that we can lose another half an hour in a restaurant with waiting around for staff - this just makes children grumpy

2. Better children's meals. I would like half portions of the standard menu rather than a crappy option for children. I like a meal option - so half a portion of a dish, drink and some breadsticks/olives at the start of the meal before the main comes for £XX.

3.I don't want screens - I think that if the restaurant is accepting enough towards children - crayons and paper, and there is somewhere to put your buggy, then you feel comfortable there so you don't worry about noise o much.

cakeywakey Fri 17-Sep-10 18:59:50

Just been re-reading my post and realise that it might sound like I was asking for a massive babychange area like the parenting rooms at John Lewis. I know that this would be ridiculous in a restaurant wink.

I'd just like a proper mat with disposable paper sheets that's on a level surface, not one of those poxy pull-down changing stations that most other places have retrofitted (which are really awkward and not generally very clean).

chocoholic Fri 17-Sep-10 19:06:59

Child sized cutlery is always useful.

Aside from that, I quite like Pizza Express as it is already. I find it an adult place to go that is child friendly and I would hate it to turn into a child place that is pretty horrible for adults (ie, tvs, toys, ice cream machines etc etc).

MillieMummy Fri 17-Sep-10 19:08:29

Clean, tidy toilets with basin, soap and dryers that children can reach.

Toilets that don't smell horrible.

Toilets where the washhand basin area is not swamped with water.

If it's a child friendly restaurant you need to clean the toilets more often than a more adult establishment.

Be honest about how long food will take at busy times - hysterically hungry kids are not relaxing dinning partners.

TheDailyWail Fri 17-Sep-10 19:20:49

Please do not give children tall narrow glasses because they'll just get knocked over. Short and wide is the way to go.

nancydrewrocked Fri 17-Sep-10 19:25:12

Can't fault my local (Guildford), plastic cups, decent high chairs...they even host the monthly NCT meeting for gawds sake!

But pleeeeease could you put a small choc cake on the kids menu - DD (5) loves it and I'm neither willing to let her share my portion and would really rather she didn't eat a whole slice herself - and I could definitely do without 1.5 slices of the stuff delicious as it is.

And carafes of squash (a la Jamie's Italians please - his are free with the kids meal wink smile ) keeps the children from requesting repeated glasses of juice (which end up more expensive than the meal itself) or wanting to "try" coke (which is just not happening)

pixierara Fri 17-Sep-10 19:34:23

what I think would be FANTASTIC is that if Kids were giving the option to create their own pizzas...the menu as it stands is brilliant, but purely for something for them to do when they get there (Pizza Hut has the make your own ice cream parlour). It would be GREAT to get a little bowl of cheese, ham, olives and for the kids to actually make their own pizzas...would encourage them to also try new foods!!

Aitch Fri 17-Sep-10 19:46:28

that would be something for the children to do immediately, actually... forget about the crayons etc, just bring them a blank kids pizza and bunch of toppings. mine would absolutely adore that.

although i must say i am v interested to know about the actual cooking that takes place in PE, it sounds like it's bog all nowadays.

It would really help if the staff were well versed in allergies and the ingredients. Had one waitress (location shall remain nameless) who promised me that the margarita pizza was 'dairy free' hmm

DS is dairy and soya allergic, and most of the time it's fairy obvious, but a lot of breads have soya in them, and would be very helpful if the staff knew the ingredients, perhaps of the basic pizzas?

I'd rather speak to someone about ingredients than have items that say 'dairy free' as ingredients can change.

Honeydragon Fri 17-Sep-10 20:19:45

My P.E is step central and someone has always came to help with the pram. I find them very family friendly.

I think the only thing I'd love to see are 5 point harness on the high chairs and the addition od booster seats for toddlers and older children.

Oh and we have a genius young woman at one we used who asks families if they would like pepper / parmasan brought over. She does this as she noticed that younger children would plead for it to be ground on if she arrived with the giant mill and then promptly refuse to eat their food. She also did a highly convincing fake grind too grin.

Reggiee Fri 17-Sep-10 20:26:29

Booster seats would be fab

theyoungvisiter Fri 17-Sep-10 20:28:03

I think communal drawing tables are a bad idea personally - it's just an excuse for crap parents to ignore their children while they run riot, and it makes it harder to keep kids at the table to finish their meals if other children are wandering off all the time.

What I would like -

I would like automatic offering of tap water rather than the assumption, if you say "water" that you mean mineral water. If you say water they should ask, "mineral or tap" rather than "still or sparkling".

Half portions off the adult menu would be nice - the children's menu is pretty limited.

Don't cram the tables so close together - this may be a London thing but at many london pizza expresses you can barely squeeze between them which is hard as an adult and even harder as an adult maneouvring a toddler and a baby and trying not to piss off other diners. I had my 18 month old lob a dough ball onto a neighbouring table - and his throwing arm isn't that good.

Not too much cheesy child-orientated crap. As others have said, the words "family restaurant" bring me out in a rash - even though I have a family and appreciate family-friendly service. I don't feel the need to have my children's every whim catered for - I just want a baby change service and space for a buggy. I would prefer to see Pizza Express going towards Carluccios rather than Pizza Hut.

NotJohnnyMarr Fri 17-Sep-10 20:29:00

No need for training, ilove.
All they need do is read the sides of the packets, jars or boxes. grin

Aitch Fri 17-Sep-10 20:31:03

so come on then, those of you who have worked there... tell all. am i right that the food has got crap in the last decade? or did i just have lower standards ten years ago?

Horton Fri 17-Sep-10 20:38:30

>> I would prefer to see Pizza Express going towards Carluccios rather than Pizza Hut.

Heartily agree with this. One of the things that is nicest of all about Carluccios is the attentive service and genuine friendliness towards children.

I don't want to see screens either. As others have said, PE is already fairly child-friendly - it just needs a little tweaking in terms of no hot plates, better menu options, quicker service etc. It does not need turning into a creche.

LeninGrad Fri 17-Sep-10 20:42:47

Haven't been for a while and can't remember if they have kids' menus. Would love a mini-pizza for DS1 now as sick of ordering pepperoni pizza just so he can have it.

I don't particularly want him away from the table but rather than screens or drawing, lego or something similar would be better, it must be kept clean though.

And please take our order quickly and ask whether to bring starters/ salad/ mains all together but do bring out whatever you can as soon as you can.

And please bring the highchair to us rather than gesture to where one is whilst we struggle to get the baby out, move the pram, seat DS1 and go and get the highchair.

Beattiebow Fri 17-Sep-10 20:45:45

1. let children help out making their pizza - mine always love watching (alternatively a better space to watch from)

2. Better desserts on children's menu not just icecream

3. A menu for older children - the baby menu is too small/unsophisticated for my 11 and 9 yos, but a grown up menu is too big/expensive for them.

There you are! We like Pizza Express (well i do, the children like pizza hut because of the salad bar. Sorry.)

zapostrophe Fri 17-Sep-10 20:47:52

Message withdrawn

Aitch Fri 17-Sep-10 20:50:24

hehehehe at coloured pencils that actually work. it's just WEIRD how few giveaway pencils make a mark on the page, isn't it?

Cyclops Fri 17-Sep-10 20:50:30

- plastic drinks cups served with a straw for younger kids
- mini (6") pizzas for youngsters
- clutter-free tables with disposable paper tablecloths for crayoning on, complete with courtesy crayons for each child
- nibbles menu to be offered and served straightaway if required
- plastic kiddie cutlery/plates
- space around the tables for highchairs, bags, people to move around easily
- regularly cleaned toilets/changing areas

I would also like to request decent highchairs. I cannot remember which ones PE have, it's been a whole since I went. But I HATE those restaurants that have fold out Graco style highchairs that your child can't sit up properly in and food is caked int he padding.
I like the solid simple wooden ones and the Antilop. DH and I always comment on the highchair that is supplied in a restaurant. Yes, we are sad but it's really bloody annoying.

LeninGrad Fri 17-Sep-10 20:56:00

Oh yes, please clear the table of all extraneous stuff straight away. We just need the glasses and cutlery as and when.

pipsqueak Fri 17-Sep-10 20:56:30

i think pe good already but betterpud choice and give the children lumps of dough to playdough with when arrive..

AnnieOneForTennis Fri 17-Sep-10 20:59:06

White table cloths, or softer decor, wooden perhaps, make it less noisy (our local one has marble tables, very noisy when banged with cutlery). This would also help it feel like more of a restaurant, than just a 'quick pizza'.

Make your own pizza corner for the children, entertainment and creativity and learning to cook, all in one!

A draw your own pizza competition - if your child's drawing is chosen they get a free child meal next time!

HamsterPoo Fri 17-Sep-10 21:00:39

Vegan and wheat-free options? [hungrily hopeful]

Blatherskite Fri 17-Sep-10 21:00:43

1. Bring the childrens food as soon as possible. MNHQ's suggestion of bread/olives is good but maybe breadsticks rather than bread as you don't want little ones filling up on that and not eating the food you order or even worse - feeling full, deciding they have finished and wanting to get down and run round.

2. I know food has to be hot but can it not be red hot so the children can't eat it! And no hot plates please - they're dangerous for small children and just keep the food hotter for longer and mean we have to blow on it more.

3. Puree for babies please. Even if it's just jarred food. There is nothing worse than forgetting something for the smallest one and having to try and keep them quiet with crusts and salad until you can get some food for them. Always amazes me that service stations give baby food away for free and restaurants always forget.

rookiemater Fri 17-Sep-10 21:33:36

Stools at the pizza making area so children can watch the pizzas being made. DS is fascinated by watching them go into the oven but is at just the wrong height to see so we have to lift him up, would be really special if every now and then the chefs could make a production of it.

IMoveTheStars Fri 17-Sep-10 21:37:57

Some of these suggestions of excellent, but please don't turn into Frankie & Benny's

nickschick Fri 17-Sep-10 21:56:21

I think pizza express is great already but what I do like in a fast food restaurant are those individual wet wipes for wiping up greasy fingers grin.

small things make all the difference grin.

NotJohnnyMarr Fri 17-Sep-10 22:16:46

Aitch I worked at one briefly about five years ago. I was ashamed to serve the food and returned swiftly to work in an actual restaurant.
Am baffled by their success tbh.

mrspickles Fri 17-Sep-10 22:27:54

Lovely waitress in PIzza Express Hertford offered to cut up my pizza for me when I was breastfeeding DD1. and another waiter in Pizza Express on the Euston Road cut up my pizza when I was holding DD2, so if this already part of PE's training then keep doing it, its fab! Although someone asking me if I wanted a glass of water/some ice-cream when I had to feed DD2 would have been nice, even though I'd paid the bill, was expecting to leave then but then realised I needed to feed, and struggled to catch the eye of any of the waiters!

Also, I don't want to have to pay the whole kids menu charge if I just want one thing off it, please separately price the kids stuff too. I've often just got the pizza and ice cream for DD1 but been charged for the drink etc the whole deal which I think is quite pricey if you just want one or two items.

onadietcokebreak Fri 17-Sep-10 22:31:42

No hot plates for children.

Somewhere to put the buggy and help carrying stuff over if need be. I was a lone parent and eating out was a nightmare with my DS. How do I colapse buggy and hold DS and bags etc.

SixtyFootDoll Fri 17-Sep-10 22:45:25

DEF No movie screens

MrsKitty Sat 18-Sep-10 07:12:13

We love Pizza Exp when we're going out with the children (3 & 1) and will usually look up the closest one if we're going away somewhere as well as being regular visitors at the one near us.

DS loves all the different courses - especially his 'little coffee'

Agree with others that a small / large option on kids meals would be useful. DS will now eat the lot, but it's annoying to pay £6 for something that DD will usually barely touch (and DH & I like spicy so can't share with her).

No no nooooo to video screens! Please rethink this as it would actually put me off going.

Would like to see a waiter a bit more towards the middle/end of a meal in case we need more drinks etc.

Help with cutting things up /pizza wheel on the table - esp for bf mothers.

No hot plates for children (If it's been under the hot lamp then slide it onto a fresh plate before serving, rather than serve saying "Ooh, the plate's very hot, do be careful hmm to a 3 yr old).

As I say though, I do find PE to be really good for a meal out with the children without feeling like I'm in a soft play.

apples123 Sat 18-Sep-10 08:13:12

1.Ready made puree in case one forgets/pops in for pizza without planning ahead-jars will suffice if needs be.

2.Child sized pizzas

3.Plastic cutlery/glasses

4.Crayons rather than pencils complimentary

5.Allergies catered for-esp nut-staff to have some training in this

6.Offers for > 1 child-eg second child free.
Also ?link with NCT /mumsnet with offers-eg 10 % off rolling vouchers.Also ?a family loyalty card?

7.Family pizza making days -kids get to help make the base/add healthy toppings

lambethlil Sat 18-Sep-10 12:01:58

Pizza Express is already streets ahead of other family friendly restaurants. Possible improvements would be soundproofing- those marble tables are practical but SO noisy. A loyalty scheme would be great- it is worth signing up for vouchers- haven't paid full price since I signed up for them. I went to a family pizza restaurant in Australia where the DCs were given dough to play with; it was then whisked away and baked. More fun than crayons but perhaps UK Health and Safety would forbid it.

lambethlil Sat 18-Sep-10 12:03:16

Really don't like the idea of screens. Intensely, sorry.

Aitch Sat 18-Sep-10 12:04:24

honestly, you guys must all be so badly served by local restaurants if PE is doing a good job of dealing with kids. we've got zillions of better places here to go to... local places, museums etc as well as wagamama etc. i can't believe that you haven't noticed that the food isn't very good at PE...

Blatherskite Sat 18-Sep-10 12:13:12

The best family-type restaurants we've ever been to are those at Center Parcs. DS loves those little play areas they have an is able to get down and play before food arrives and between courses. We spend more time and more money in those than anywhere else as we can take our time without worrying about him getting bored.

I'm sure losing a couple of tables is more than made up for with the extra desserts and drinks the parents order.

BrewLover Sat 18-Sep-10 12:29:03

I like PE and we go a bit but not as much as another local italian were they really welcome DD and serve a lot quicker.
But my tuppenceworth is ...

-Ledge at the pizza making but that kids can stand on to watch - lifting a older child can be quite tiring.

-Actually bring the salad and the babycino if kids menu ordered - I know its "free" stuff and not the main event but its my daughter's favourite bit and a bit of a pain if you ask repeatedly for the babycino and it never arrives at the precise time child is getting fidgety!

-Personally prefer a wee collection of books /paper / pens to help yourself from although last time we visited the free worksheet was quite entertaining.

Videos - no!

gegs73 Sat 18-Sep-10 12:33:59

1. two sizes of childrens meal. Extra small for toddlers/pre-schoolers.
2. Little area with childrens chairs where they can sit by themselves (obv close to you) to eat their meal for 5/6yo +.
3.Bringing childrens meals first ie quickly, and letting them cool a little so they are not boiling hot.

Message withdrawn

Katisha Sat 18-Sep-10 13:17:48

I would be very loth to see any special toddler furniture/separate tables/toy tables to be honest. The point of coming to a restaurant is to eat together and it's a skill children need to learn.

And wet wipes on the table would definitely send the wrong message for me. If you make Pizza Express into toddler heaven you will lose your adults and older children. They don't stay toddlers for long and there are other places to eat if you really can't cope with no wet wipes, toys, screens and small tables. Don't alienate the rest of your customer base. I couldn't bear it to end up like a Centre Parc restaurant. That IS geared for children. PE doesn't need to go down that route.

Just hurry up the service and follow some of the excellent and common sense child-friendly behaviours on this thread and all will be well.

(Everyone has moaned about staff disappearing after the main course has turned up - are the waiting staff actually told to do this? It's starting to feel deliberate given that so many people have complained about it on here!)

Baileysismyfriend Sat 18-Sep-10 14:29:12

- Crayons or small puzzles for little ones to play with

- Storage for prams and buggies

- Having highchairs provided would be handy

CompetitiveChutes Sat 18-Sep-10 14:38:49

Oh no screens please! Meals out are a social occasion for our family, I would rather my child is interacting with me than staring at a screen.

What I do appreciate is a swift removal of tat such as candles and flowers from the table. Likewise please don't put drinks and food in reach of my one year old.

Keeping an eye out for when we have finished and giving us the bill and then dealing with it promptly would also be helpful.

LilRedWG Sat 18-Sep-10 15:03:24

No seperate play area/tv screens for the children. PE is one of the places you can go where that feels close to being a normal restaurant whilst embracing families, iykwim. It's great that there's no soft play etc to send the children off to - there are anough pubs etc that cater for that kind of thing. DD loves gooing out for a 'grown-up' meal where she sits and chats and learns how to eat out in a restaurant.

Child size cutlery is always great, as is the wait-staff speaking directly to the child and treating them as a customer.

Meglet Sat 18-Sep-10 15:33:18

yy to someone to guard the table when you need to take the dc's to the loo. I'm on my own so I don't take the dc's out for meals as I couldn't want to leave everything at the table while I hauled 2 children off to the loo. I only take them to wagamamas when I'm on my own as the food is served in minutes and I know we are unlikely to need a toilet visit in the 40 mins we are there, the chopsticks mean they take longer to eat their food grin. I would love to take them to PE as well, we only do 'proper' restaurants when mum takes us.

No tv screens!

Space next to the table for the buggy.

Disposable bibs on request, especially if a child chooses something with loads of sauce.

readinginsteadnow Sat 18-Sep-10 15:33:43

Child sized cutlery but not the ikea style plastic crap!

Worksheets/colouring in that actually lets crayons&pencils draw on; many places have shiny paper that they dont work on!

A pictoral menu so kids too young to read can actually see what they can choose from.

Cheap juice instead of child cups costing a small fortune.

Little babycinnos inc in the price so that kids can have a 'coffee' while adults do.

Fast service in betweeen courses to avert loss of attention!

oldienotamoldie Sat 18-Sep-10 15:44:58

Automatic doors or someone who wont be too busy to open the door for prams

small snacks for children if food is going to take forever, nothing worse that waiting an hour with an hungry small child.

One we went to did an small pump bag style activity bag, it had crayons, a small jigsaw you could actually colour, a comic and stickers. DD loved that.

No TV screen, I would never get dd to eat if a tv screen was present.

LeninGrad Sat 18-Sep-10 15:58:23

Yep, our favourite is up a flight of stairs, would at least help if the door opened as we got to the top.

Checkmate Sat 18-Sep-10 16:42:50

No, no, NO to screens. Once a child's eye catches sight of a screen, you've lost any chance of stimulating conversation over a meal.

Our local PE is quite good, but service is sooooo slow, so when an Ask opened in the next street, we switched to that instead. Their kids menus are the same price, and much of a muchness, but there is more space between tables in Ask, and much faster service.

Reading the above responses, it seems that parents want what any customer wants - attentive waiting staff who can tailor their service to the needs of the individual.

It irritates me when too many child activity guffy bits are brought to the table - one colouring/activity sheet and some crayons are okay, but when stickers and bits of jigsaw get everywhere its annoying; tone it down a bit.

Also, make sure all staff understand the importance of breastfeeding, as I got a sniffy remark from a PE waitress once, after another customer complained that I should be BF in the loos. However, I did follow it up with the manager and she did tell the waitress that the other customer was in the wrong and that PE supports bf...

1. Toddler menu at a reasonable price. Pre-school kids don't eat a lot at all and while I've found Pizza Express to be friendly with the kids it's a lot to pay out for the amount she picks at.

2. Delivering food to toddlers really quickly or having something to keep them entertained while you wait (e.g. colouring stuff)

3. Have a family area or try to keep the families near each other. I hate being sat in a restaurant with my kids hoping they aren't disturbing the couple on the next table.

chipsncurrysauce Sat 18-Sep-10 17:52:00

Haven't had time to read all suggestions. I think Pizza Express is already very family friendly. My suggestions:
Space to get a buggy through the doors and parked somewhere without getting in everyone's way
Toilets on both floors if applicable - my local PE has two floors, they usually seat people upstairs and its a long trek down a spiral staircase to get to the toilets - not ideal when your little one announces that they need a poo just as your nice hot pizza arrives
More pudding options for children (frit/custard/mini muffins?)

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Sat 18-Sep-10 18:29:46

Doesn't anyone mind that PE is dull, overpriced crap?

That nothing is actually cooked there (unless you count putting bought-in, defrosted dough topped with sauce out of a can, in an oven as cooking)?

I think it's a bloody outrage.

I didn't know that they bring in frozen bases.

Is that really true?

How much time can it bloody take to make a base?


I used to like them - maybe about 10 years ago or so, they did those lovely pizzas with an egg on.

Thing is though, Jenai - is that there are so few options for families. Particularly outside London. You want somewhere not upmarket but not McDonalds. I can see why it is popular. Thgouh I have never taken the children there.

CoupleofKooks Sat 18-Sep-10 19:05:14

No screens - i would avoid anywhere that has screens - and we eat in PE quite a lot because our local one has such good staff

PosieParker Sat 18-Sep-10 19:35:41

Perhaps they could make sure their waiters and waitresses actually get their tips and they're not used to make up the minimum wage.

Fucking hell, who has got a conscience these days?

nearlytoolate Sat 18-Sep-10 20:23:21

Nicer more varied adult menu
Half portions for children of all the dishes
No screens, please

Other than that I do actually like the children's menu (its quite fun), its the adult food that leaves a lot to be desired!

Aitch Sat 18-Sep-10 20:24:31

is that right, posieparker? i really hate that.

Message withdrawn

theyoungvisiter Sat 18-Sep-10 20:56:09

I think actually it was a bit more complicated than that - it was all exposed in an industry-wide campaign to make tipping fairer, and as far as I can remember, the claim was that the group that owned them used tips to make up minimum wages at some of their restaurants (including Zizzi) but I don't think I've ever read that Pizza Express specifically did this.

Pizza Express were targetted in the same campaign but for a different practice - deducting 8% of credit card tips to cover the "admin" involved in administrating and taxing the tips.

see here and here and px here]] (nos 11-14)

Just in the interests of not getting MN sued again... grin

theyoungvisiter Sat 18-Sep-10 20:57:10

sorry that last link should have been px here (nos 11-14)

theyoungvisiter Sat 18-Sep-10 20:58:02

argggg dammit here (nos 11-14)

Are you sure that's right this time? grin

DwayneDibbley Sat 18-Sep-10 21:15:51

Message withdrawn

DwayneDibbley Sat 18-Sep-10 21:18:28

Message withdrawn

taffetacat Sat 18-Sep-10 21:46:33

Love the idea of a communal drawing/play area for children

Service improvements:

- Address children as well as adults when greeting. eg Hi, I'm x, whats your name? Here's a menu so you can choose some food/some colouring in to do etc.
- Take drinks order as soon as seated.
- Ask children if they enjoyed their meal as well as the adults

hotpotmama Sat 18-Sep-10 22:15:57

1)Clean baby changing and toilets - very important, if the toilets are dirty then you wonder if the kitchen is the same. Also in our local PE, the safety strap on the baby change table was broke which was not much use!

2)Jug of water on the table so kids don't pester for more than one soft drink, can refill with water then.

3)Like the snacks when you arrive idea as the kids are always starving.

We do like Pizza express and are often eating there so very interested to see how it changes.

hotpotmama Sat 18-Sep-10 22:18:50

Disposable bibs also a great idea as babies and toddlers can be really messy, the bibs that catch it are best!

mbb Sat 18-Sep-10 22:26:55

1. Smaller, child-sized cutlery.
2. Toilets on the same floor, so no carting kids up and down masses of stairs.
3. Serving kids's desserts promptly, so no hanging around for ages.
4. Extra napkins or a mini pack of wipes for children.
5. Not bringing the childrens' food on really hot plates.
6. Just being faster all round really!

TeamEdward Sat 18-Sep-10 22:45:14

An ideal trip to Pizza Express:
I'd love it if we were seated quickly, with a space for the pushchair nearby.

A clean high chair bought to the table and extra chairs taken away. We'd love a booster seat or cushion for our 5yo too.

The waiting staff would clear the table of vases, condiments and unnecessary menus.

A small plate of (complimentary?) dough balls, for the children, bought to the table quickly.

Reading books, colouring or some other activity should be offered at the table. No blunt pencils please!

Drinks orders should be taken quickly too! Short sturdy glasses or, preferably, plastic cups for the children, with bendy straws. Wine for Mummy grin. Staff should be aware of placing all drinks (but especially hot drinks) well away from the grabby hands of toddlers.

The staff should ask if the parent wants the children's food to come first - I should think most parents do, but some won't. children's food needs time to cool, and they take longer to eat too.

Someone to keep an eye on your table/belonging when you take the family to the loo would be wonderful.
Lower sinks for handwashing would be good too.

I'd like the bill to arrive soon after we have finished as the children get restless.

BoffinMum Sat 18-Sep-10 22:46:01

Service is so appalling in most restaurants around us, especially PE, that we have stopped bothering to eat out unless we have to. Waiting forever, cold restaurants, echoing noisy surrounding, forgotten orders, staff that totally and utterly couldn't give a stuff, why bother putting yourself through that?

Message withdrawn

silverfrog Sun 19-Sep-10 08:17:56

I used to love PE, but sadly now can't go, mostly due to food issues.

So, our ideal list, which would tempt us back easily would be:

Please can you have some cows milk free pizzas? Buffalo mozzarella is fine (if it is the Real Deal) as is goats cheese. (and can staff actually know this is the case, rather than having to check and it taking half an hour)

Also, gluten free. There are gf pizza bases available, so you could offer those. Or, as somebody else suggested, chips on the menu solves an awful lot (as long as nothing containing gluten is fried in the oil, so don't double up)

Definitely more than ice cream for kids pudding. Fruit is so easy to offer - just something like Apple/grapes cut up is fine.

(oh, and absolutely not to screens. Ghastly idea. And no loud music either, please)

silverfrog Sun 19-Sep-10 08:21:31

Oh yes, definitely no hot plates for children.

And tables cleared of excess rubbish (flowers, menu stands, condiments, extra cutlery etc)

supergreenuk Sun 19-Sep-10 08:53:38

clean, non sticky, non stained high chairs.

In store (no jars) weaning food. eg home made purees, finger food platters. Maybe a baby buffet station with a few daily specials pureed or finger food style.

Play corner where you can sit and have a coffee on a soft chair while your child plays safely.

mollyroger Sun 19-Sep-10 09:10:22

last time we went to Pizza Express, the kids guzzled their soft drinks within minutes, then a refill, and no food had arrived. At which point, mindful of the fact we wanted to a we asked for a jug of water. ''we 'an't got no more jugs'' came the delightfully concerned response. No one offered to bring us some glasses of water instead. hmm

silverfrog Sun 19-Sep-10 09:33:20

Dear god.

I have just read through the thread. I can't believe what people are asking for.

Free bibs? Really? Surely you know whether you're going to need one or not.

Tv/library space/lego tables/softly equivalent? If you want any.of this, Goethe places that already cater for it - oh that's right, you don't want Togo there because its hideous, but you want to make PE just like that.

It a restaurant (although even that perhaps debatable since they only heat food, not cook it) , not a playpark. You.go in, sit down, order and eat. Yes to simple things to make life easier - paper/pencils, possibly a simple play pack with wiki sticks or similar. But really, do you all let your children play with lego/books/play dough/screen time when eating at home? Why would you do this just because you are out.

YES to faster service,, knowledge of ingredients, helpful staff and being able to switch menu items to suit tastes/allergies (on the point of allergies, if they do t even make the pizza bases there, just why is so much flour being thrown about? Should be quite simple to have a gf area if all food is frozen/pre prepared anyway)

I would like there to be a consistency across the chain. Knowing there is a major chain (other than dreaded McD's) found in most towns, where we can go in and know we can eat as a family, with proper gf and dairy free food would mean guaranteed business from us. We need to go on, order and eat. Don't care if it is the same thing each time, used to that due to dietary restrictions.

But at themoment, the dds are pretty much restricted to McD's chips for easy, no fuss gf food when out (should say dd1 is ASD, so other food issue too, which is why we can't just have gf food items from eg adult menu like salads etc)

silverfrog Sun 19-Sep-10 09:37:34

Sorry, that should say when out in a strange town/dont k.ow the place well. The number of times we've been into places, asked about gf food, and had to leave again because even chips are mostly.coated these days (wtf? What is this insistence on tucking about with food?) - in a strange town we often have to try 4 or 5 places before we fond somewherethat can cater. So to know a chain was reliable would unlike gold dust to us (and many dietary-challenged families)

Aitch Sun 19-Sep-10 09:55:46

what are they coated with, sf? flour?

silverfrog Sun 19-Sep-10 10:05:12

Yep, flour mix to make them crispy/crunchy. Honestly, hidden ingredients are the biggest problem when eating out - loads of stuff has gluten or dairy that wouldn't be there if made at home, and then staff never know, and it takes ages to check with chef.

We usually have to ring round and book ahead now, which can be really hard if you just want a day trip somewhere, as you don't know what is there in the first place!

That's why a major chain undertaking this type of thing would really clean up. Loathe McD's though I do, at least you can easily find out exactly what is in each menu item (listed on the back of the paper tray liner), and you can trust whatthey say (hah) even though it does mean eating shite.

silverfrog Sun 19-Sep-10 10:06:20

Apologies for multiple typos, btw, typing on phone while overseeing breakfast...

Aitch Sun 19-Sep-10 10:16:50

that's so interesting, sf. i remember being out in ikea with a pal with a dairy intolerant baby and being amazed when she showed me that in the free hipp puree (ratatouille, supposedly) there was milk powder. (and don't get me started on the half-life of a decade... wink)
sounds like if PE would get its act together re allergies it could bring in a reliable clientele. i thank god every day that we seem not to have any allergies in the family.

silverfrog Sun 19-Sep-10 10:32:34

it is a total nightmare (and then if you add in ASD food issues too, it can be really hard. both dds will eat plain grilled chicken breast and chips, though - but can we find that anywhere? not a bloody chance. when we do, they are guaranteed repeat custom)

last Bank Holiday we wanted to meet friends (also with children) for lunch in London. wanted to book, as though it might be busy. dh spent an hour ringing around trying to find somewhere reasonably child friendly (age range form 6 down to 11 months) which offered gluten free chips (which, on the face of it is a ridiculous thing to ask)

we booked somewhere, turned up, only to be told they didn't do gf chips after all. it was 1.30pm (timed for lunch time, since we had booked) and all 4 children were starving. apparently the cook couldn't do any type of gf chip like potatoes - wedges/sauteed in oil, etc. obviously they had no potatoes inthe kitchen...

in the end, dh legged it to McD's to get chips for the girls, I ordered some thyme/lemon chicken (only offered as a half-chicken on the menu, no alternative - hardly a child's portion, and was practically the only gf option there) and the rest of us ordered normally.

the waitress did try a "oh you can only eat our food here" speech, buthonestly, we were not in the mood, especially since we had taken the trouble to book ahead, and ask

Aitch Sun 19-Sep-10 10:50:15

that's awful, esp not having a blooming potato to stick in the micro. am shocked, tbh, at the lack of cooking in PE. although it makes a lot of sense, given how reluctant the staff are to jig things around.

Cammelia Sun 19-Sep-10 13:04:40

Staff should be:
1. Smiling, friendly, polite, calm and efficient.
2. Help with coats and buggies.
3. Look after the table when parents take children to washroom.

notcitrus Sun 19-Sep-10 13:20:56

Do PE really no longer make their own pizza bases? Except during kids' birthday parties presumably.

They used to do cheese-free pizzas and a potato-based pizza which I'd have thought would cover most allergy/dietary options, but thinking about it now there's all those sodding 'designer' pizzas (word to management - being too lazy to chop up toppings, and making the pizza rectangular, does not equal 'designer'!), and they've got rid of my fave mozzarella and tomato salad.

I used to love the simplicity of the menu (I grew up going to one of the first PEs in the country every other Friday night), but now it seems to change every time and not for the better.

Bunch of pizzas. List of extra toppings. A few sides and a couple non-pizza dishes. Rapid service and if your kids can't finish a whole pizza that's what the takeaway boxes are for.

Now if PE would like to apologise properly for refusing to let MrNC change a nappy last year because they only had a change table in the ladies, that would be good too! hmm

CMOTdibbler Sun 19-Sep-10 15:18:13

In the interests of research, I took two small (tired ands v hungry) children, a friend and myself (gluten free and currently one handed) to a small pizza place yesterday.

We were instantly greeted with breadsticks (nice real italian thin ones) and olives, a swift drinks order, and the childrens tap water came in short stable glasses with a straw.

There was no childrens menu, just one where everything could be done as small portions. Gluten free pizza and pasta was available to substitute with any topping or sauce, and so was vegan cheese. Pizza was cut into slices for the children and me, and their plates weren't hot.
Puddings included something suitable for us all, and soy milk was available for coffee.

Perfect lunch all round for us. It was fresh, simple food, but with caring, attentive staff who wanted to help and make it a pleasant experience for us all. And they were fast with the bill and letting us pay it when it got to the end too..

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sun 19-Sep-10 16:00:55

We went to PE in Clapham last night - me and DH, DB and his GF and DS who is 2.

We walked in, having booked a table. Manager was at the door, we gave the name we'd booked under and he just said 'oh you're at the back' and waved us vaguely onward. We were all like this hmm but decided to stay, and fortunately the staff were brilliant.

They brought DS' salad and pizza with our starters, plate was warm but not scorching. We asked for double salad and no dough balls for him and that was fine, he also got 2 babycino at the end.
Our food was lovely, really good pizza. DH and DB had something that was new on the menu and really liked it.

So all in all a thumbs up, except for the manager being so dreadfully indifferent when we first arrived.

JuanMoreTime Sun 19-Sep-10 16:09:36

drinks that dont tip over/lidded cups. cheaper kids drinks

restaurants that are properly staffed not three people on on saturday luncthinme
getting the bill FAST

ours has really noisy tiled floors

JuanMoreTime Sun 19-Sep-10 16:10:05

oh a design your own pizza promotion (last month) where you dont have to buy your own stamp to post in your entry

tight feckers

JuanMoreTime Sun 19-Sep-10 16:11:32

the whole thread seems to say speed.
i go in and my kids immediately pik up the cutlery and dick about wiht it

i say " we have cutlery at home leave it" but they have to fiddle!

GreatGooglyMoogly Sun 19-Sep-10 17:03:28

1. 3 sizes of meals and drinks on the menu (small, medium and large)
2. Jug of tap water quickly at the beginning and the bill quickly at the end
3. Child-sized cutlery and plastic cups with straws

I hate the term "babyccino"

hollygolightlyandcat Sun 19-Sep-10 20:14:35

1.Friendly staff (the staff in the Livingston branch are great and always chat to the DC!)
2. Definately no screens and no toys or book corner - I don't want to be chasing DC all over the restaurant (although yes to the crayons and puzzle sheet)
3. Bigger tables would be great

tempertemper Sun 19-Sep-10 20:20:45

Haven't read the thread through, so apologies if its all been said before. Just wanted adding to the draw, if I'm honest grin. So:

Room for buggies
Make your own pizza (as in, add your own topping?) for children
Stable plastic cups for kids
breadsticks on arrival.
Childrens food brought straight over when ready
Bill asap when asked for
plates not boiling hot, sensible cutlery for kids
I second the idea of not really having a kids menu, but allowing smaller portions of any meal
enough staff to speed up service - i like to eat at pizza express but it can take sooo blimming long. Honestly, with toddlers, a lingering lunch is as much fun as sticking forks in your eyeballs.

Thats all.

Merrylegs Sun 19-Sep-10 20:43:35

Overheard at our lovely rural German hotel this summer -

family from Crouch End at other table, small child announces in imperious tones to the amusement of his assorted adults -

'Before we came to this hotel, the staff had never even heard of a babyccino!"

I exchanged a hmm with lovely, long suffering waitress

GinoGinelli Sun 19-Sep-10 20:45:00

agree turn around is TOO LONG

supersalstrawberry Sun 19-Sep-10 23:17:30

tbh I don't go to the one in Cardiff Bay as it's so noisy, the acoustics are terrible, I've been a few times and come out with a headache, it's really unpleasant

my youngest is 8 now so I avoid anywhere thats to family friendly

ShatnersBassoon Mon 20-Sep-10 09:37:29

It would be great if the server could bring a few nibbles over for children, especially when they know there might be a substantial wait for the order to arrive. Some grissini, for example, to keep little hands and minds occupied for a few moments.

My children love it when waiting staff talk to them, even though some of it has to go through a parent translator. Patience is greatly appreciated when we're in restaurants.

I also agree with the clearing of glasses, vases and other table clutter when a family occupies a table.

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Mon 20-Sep-10 10:07:15

notcitrus the dough comes in pre-portioned, frozen on trays. The staff throw it about and do the stretching thing (hence all that flour everywhere).

The pizzaiola sauce comes in a tin.

The dressings are exactly the same bottled PE stuff you can buy in a supermarket.

I don't think there's anything wrong with this per se, economies of scale and all that it makes sense for a chain to centralise production. But it rather begs the question, why are they so a. Expensive and b. Slow, particularly when compared to independents who employ real chefs and prepare their own food using fresh ingredients.

Aitch Mon 20-Sep-10 10:14:03

is it true about the pasta, jenn? and what of the salads? i notice they didn't use fresh basil in their tricolore salad last time, it was just pesto.

Aitch Mon 20-Sep-10 10:14:39

sorry re the salads i meant chicken caesar etc. please tell me they are cooking the chicken.

IsThisNameTaken Mon 20-Sep-10 11:00:22

May have all already been said but ...

- quicker service, local one takes at least an hour to have just a 'quick pizza'
- clean highchairs with straps that aren't broken
- crayons that work
- serving tables 'in turn' ... children always notice if someone else gets their colouring / drink / pizza before you even if you arrived first
- something other than ice cream for dessert
- breadsticks if wait is going to be long
- let kids pizzas / doughballs cool before bringing them over
- communal drawing area = good idea, screen = bad idea!

Yes Aitch, I would like to know that as well. If all of this is true, I would expect them to be cheaper.

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Mon 20-Sep-10 11:18:20

I don't know about the chicken, Aitch.

A few years ago the cooking equipment consisted of a microwave (can't remember what that was for - heating puddings maybe?), a single ring electric stove (for boiling eggs) and the pizza oven. So I guess they could cook their own chicken but it would make sense if they bought it in.

Like I said, nothing wrong with any of this really. Few restaurants make everything from scratch. But I remember seeing a PE with a queue snaking outside and then passing a "proper" restaurant where it wasn't just the sauces but the actual pasta that they skillfully made themselves sit half empty and being confused

Aitch Mon 20-Sep-10 11:26:13

so they are doing the pasta in the micro? this would make sense, we got some for dd once and it was dangerously hot (for an adult, steam ripping off it) and the actual pasta tasted like shit. sauce was crap too, as i recall, i was really surprised. we guessed it was the pizza sauce, tbh.

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Mon 20-Sep-10 12:02:10

iirc the pasta dishes and pizza dough were shipped in from Italy. And they were good enough quality.

Just not what one would describe as fresh, and not really deserving of the premium.

I'd be interested to know if things have changed in recent years.

Aitch Mon 20-Sep-10 12:03:59

so it was boiled on a ring, then, like i would do in the house? someone else further down said that it was all brought to the restaurants prepped in the terracotta dishes, so i was presuming that would have to be micro-ed.

lucysmum Mon 20-Sep-10 12:10:18

I think pasta is done in oven/mircowave. We ordered plain pasta for DD and when it came it was hard and dry - they said it was because none of the pasta was boiled, it was warmed up somehow with the sauce already included.

Aitch Mon 20-Sep-10 12:10:49


JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Mon 20-Sep-10 12:24:19

aitch, the pasta is (was?) bought in, in dishes. Just realised i posted that under a pseudonym (namechanged for another thread).

The ring got used once a day to boil the eggs.

I suspect the pasta starts in the microwave and is finished in the pizza oven, as the pizza oven would be too hot to use for the entire cooking time.

fwiw I've worked in other places that do cook from scratch and the food was crap because the chefs were rubbish. But everything being premade does seem a bit dishonest, imo. And PE is baffling dear for what it is.

Aitch Mon 20-Sep-10 12:31:43

yes, and i understand economies of scale and the attraction of consistency. there is a very successful chain of relatively good indian restaurants up here that positively make a virtue out of the fact that you will get the same korma in johnstone as you will in maryhill etc etc. fine, if that's what you want, and plenty of people do, judging by their success. and they don't charge any less for it.

i don't mind, so long as i know. pasta cannot be cooked in a microwave in a terracotta dish, afaic, it will always taste like shit. so that's PE lost my business. (that and that ghastly pepper sauce and the fuckabout with the menu. i am SURE it wasn't like this a decade ago).

Yes - but they make a show of having the kitchen for all to see. Implying that they make it there - with the flour flying around.

Aitch Mon 20-Sep-10 12:50:04

yes they really do, actually. in fact i asked if i could take dd to see the pizzas being made and was told no, for healht and safety reasons, despite the fact that i only wanted to hold her up near the counter.

prettybird Mon 20-Sep-10 13:07:11

Aitch is right - real Italian restaurants (including Glasgow Italian wink) already know how to do the "child friendly" approach.

Sarti's on Bath Street/West Campbell Street in Glasgow always has a genuine welcome for the kids and deson't need extra games/toys etc. Although it would fail on the accesbility criteria - neither of them are at all buggy friendly and the loos (which both resturants share) are up/down stairs and round a corner hmm (although once ds was allowed to go on his own he thought it a great adventure!)

fluffyhamster Mon 20-Sep-10 13:25:13

This thread has actually persuaded me that I NEVER want to go to PE again....

What are their management thinking of?
"If it ain't broke - don't fix it..."
The one near us is always packed, but I bet it won't be if half of this type of stuff gets implemented...

Spacehoppa Mon 20-Sep-10 13:27:28

colouring sheets for the little ones

drinkable drinks for toddlers

quick delivery of pizza (Small people not the most patient)

InmyheadIminParis Mon 20-Sep-10 13:34:34

Haven't read the whole thread, so sorry if repeating a point already made.

Pizza Express is pretty child-friendly already, but the problem for me comes with ordering. I'd like to be able to choose e.g. a small pizza and drink when you don't want the whole garlic bread, baby cappuccino blow out experience.

The staff do say smaller sizes of pizza can be ordered, but without the list of toppings and prices it's hard to make an informed choice.

Children's pizza options
Two different sizes of kids menu (e.g. toddler and school age child)

PLEASE bring the children's meals out first!
One wash basin and hand-dryer at child hight.

and YES to small cutlery.

InmyheadIminParis Mon 20-Sep-10 13:36:14

Supersalstrawberry - we don't go to the PE in Hitchin for the same reason: really bad accoustics which give you a headache.

foxinsocks Mon 20-Sep-10 15:27:15

lol NotanOtter

I didn't realise they were all so different. You can see the kitchen in our local one.

I just order my two adult pizzas but smaller. I have never had that request turned down and I've eaten in at least 3 pizza expresses.

fillybuster Mon 20-Sep-10 15:28:08

One of our local PEs (Muswell Hill) is totally excellent. Oddly the other ones nearby (Whetstone, Mill Hill and Hampstead) are lousy. Main points of difference:

1. Friendly smiley prompt service - MH PE are happy to let us order as soon as we're seated, if we want to. Even better, they will let us order for the kids first and then take the adult order 5 mins later.

2. Prompt delivery of pencils & drawing stuff to the table, and high chairs, without being asked/reminded 20 times.

3. Glasses of water and stuff come quickly

4. They listen and get the orders right (nothing to do with kids, admittedly) - we've had wrong orders in a number of others recently and it means one person ends up not eating or everyone else gets cold food from waiting...

5. They always make space for buggies etc by the tables, unlike the other local branches

Possible improvements:

1. Better baby changing/child friendly toilet facilities which are more accessible. If we're lucky there's a single changing station and its frequently down/up 2 flights of stairs and through a load of double doors. Try doing that with a baby on your shoulder and a toddler and 4yo in tow...

2. Smaller portions of any meal or more childrens' menu options: it would be nice to be able to add veg to pizzas without a 50p surcharge for each item; more vegetarian options; fruit or something other than ice cream for dessert

3. Disposable bibs would be a big plus!

4. PE being willing to heat baby food

wilbur Mon 20-Sep-10 17:30:02

We love Pizza Express and go there a lot, but what I would say is:

1. Prompt service - esp. in taking of drinks/food orders and bringing colouring things.
2. More choice for kids - another pasta dish on the kids menu would be great.
3. Don't seat a family with three children under 10 next to a young couple or group of singletons unless it's the last table in the place. The singletons will hate the kids' chatter and the parents will feel obscurely guilty for having reproduced the whole time.

By the way, re silent video screens - this is something I would actually prefer NOT to see. I think of PE as a step up from fast food, slack-jaw type restaurants, and take my kids there when we want a nice family meal. I'd be really sad to have ds1 sit there goggle-eyed at some video while I eat in silence. I realise when you have a clingy toddler and are desparate for a coffee, then a video might be a godsend, but generally TV entertainment in restaurants = naff.

wilbur Mon 20-Sep-10 17:30:38

We love Pizza Express and go there a lot, but what I would say is:

1. Prompt service - esp. in taking of drinks/food orders and bringing colouring things.
2. More choice for kids - another pasta dish on the kids menu would be great.
3. Don't seat a family with three children under 10 next to a young couple or group of singletons unless it's the last table in the place. The singletons will hate the kids' chatter and the parents will feel obscurely guilty for having reproduced the whole time.

By the way, re silent video screens - this is something I would actually prefer NOT to see. I think of PE as a step up from fast food, slack-jaw type restaurants, and take my kids there when we want a nice family meal. I'd be really sad to have ds1 sit there goggle-eyed at some video while I eat in silence. I realise when you have a clingy toddler and are desparate for a coffee, then a video might be a godsend, but generally TV entertainment in restaurants = naff.

Sam100 Mon 20-Sep-10 19:10:24

Probably re-iterating some already said but my top 3:

1. Fairly good at taking the order up front but can be horrendously slow after that at clearing up, taking dessert orders and more importantly bringing the bill at the end (we find putting our coats on usually does the trick!).

2. Smaller size of cutlery for children would be fab - proper stainless steel stuff not plastic!

3. Give the kids food some cooling down time before you bring it to the table!

Agree above - no silent video screens please - trying to teach them how to eat out in public!

a lot of the stuff suggested here is what pizza hut do already - the activity booklet which is also a menu is great, all drink come in small lidded thing with a straw. Chef's hat to colour in. Teeny little bowl to take up to the salad bar which is just perfect sized.

I second boosters for those past high chairs but hot big enough for seats. Also decent high chairs rather than the slippy slidy food in the seams fold-up type.

is1 Mon 20-Sep-10 21:19:42

I think Pizza Express is pretty great already, would agree with a lot of the comments so far. I would love to see children-height sinks/soap dispensers/dryers etc in the toilets. Not just at Pizza Express, everywhere - it is such a simple thing to do.

mellifluouscauliflower Mon 20-Sep-10 22:58:40

3 out 6 of your kids menu items have mushrooms in them. But young children tend not to like mushrooms, not because they don't taste good but because they are slimey. I believe this is supposed to be some survival mechanism to protect them from eating putrified food.

It leaves them a choice of plain pizza, tomato pasta or spag bol which my son (aged 6) finds a bit boring. Can't you add a "special" to allow children to experiment a bit?

Also why not leave off the La Reine and offer a ham and black olive pizza instead? I notice lots of kids like black olives.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Tue 21-Sep-10 09:16:53

No don't leave off the La Reine - my 2 year old loves it!

mackerel Tue 21-Sep-10 09:46:12

1. Bigger range on the childrens menu. My older 2 would like to experiment a bit more, I think.

2. Efficient service. At times we've had to wait ages for courses to arrive and the 2 yo starts getting just a tad restless, as much as we try and crayon etc!

3. Couldn't they just offer a smaller version of any pizza on the menu. My 9 yo doesn't really want the babycino etc but could eat more pizza but not an adult sized one.

4. PLEASE don't bring in silent video screens. I'm not a tv fascist but isn't the point that children are learning to eat out and have a meal around the table, chat, play with the crayons and packs. The video would kill that and would probably put me off going there to eat. Not that keen on a play area idea either.

JulesJules Tue 21-Sep-10 10:42:51

My main thing would be prompt service.

The very last time I went into our local PE (and I'm not going again) we had to wait 50 mins for our pizzas. Pizzas take about 5-10 mins to cook. The restaurant was not at all busy. Then the waiter argued with us about how long we had been waiting.

By this time the children were bouncing off the walls, and when the food finally came they were just about past it. I was tearing my hair out trying to keep them occupied and the staff looked on, stony faced.

And mushrooms are utterly disgusting. grin

wilbur Tue 21-Sep-10 11:02:09

Agree with mellifluouscauliflower about the mushrooms - I have eaten a load of scraped off shrooms over the years as my kids LOVE olives but won't eat the mushrooms. And a pasta dish wiith a cream or cheese sauce would be good instead of always tomato-based ones.

prettybird Tue 21-Sep-10 12:06:29

So that's why I hate mushrooms - I have retained my survival instinct! grin

theyoungvisiter Tue 21-Sep-10 12:56:01

my two both love mushrooms! (20 months and 4 years).

Also please bear in mind that for toddlers ham AND olives is a lot of salt. Either/or would be preferable.

Surely though you can always order the reine without the mushrooms, can't you?

MrsTittleMouse Tue 21-Sep-10 13:15:27

NO NO NO to screens and childrens' drawing tables. If I go to Pizza Express then I'm going there to teach my DCs how to eat out in public, and to have a nice time myself, not to go to a noisy childrens' party atmosphere. You are not Pizza Hut - if you try to copy them then you may gain some parents of toddlers, but you will lose almost everyone else (and I speak as a mother of two under 4).

YES to prompt service, childrens' meals especially and to cold plates (or at least, not nuclear hot).

YES to child-sized drinks in child-friendly glassware, i.e. shorter and easy to hold. I really resent having to spend a lot of money on an adult drink, and they are always too tall and too heavy and get knocked over.

YES to being especially prompt with the bill - once the food is done with, my children are likely to start getting bored very quickly.

flamingtoaster Tue 21-Sep-10 13:23:57

Cater for those with allergies by:

1. Increase the number of items available which are free of the major allergens, backed up by readily accessible comprehensive lists of what is in each ingredient.

2. Glutenfree pizzas with small separate oven and gf area away from loose wheat flour, vegan "cheese" and toppings available for those who may also have a milk allergy. Dairy free ice-cream - many varieties and flavours are available and they keep for months in a freezer.

2. Staff properly trained to avoid cross contamination.

mollyroger Tue 21-Sep-10 13:31:18

PLEASE don't kidify it all, it is the only venue in town which a) we can afford to take our children but which isn't all wipe clean surfaces, and primary colours.
We use it when we really want to have a vaguely civilised night out but can't get a sitter and therefore children have to come.

HughRinal Tue 21-Sep-10 15:48:40

Have a front door that actually opens so you don't have to walk round the back past an open cellar hatch that your toddler nearly falls down - Yes I am looking at YOU ALRESFORD IN HAMPSHIRE BRANCH.

also please ask if kids want their puddings when they have finished, not when the adults have, which is much later by which time everyone is a bit fractious.

I would rather not have children's menus. Just smaller portions of adult ones, priced accordingly.

DinahRod Tue 21-Sep-10 16:14:51

We go to an independent where the dcs watch the pizzas being made from the raised seating, if not busy they are called up to pick their toppings and are occasionally sung to grin Sorry but PE really can't compete.

Last time we went to PE it was very loud acoustically and I wanted a perspex vacuum dome to descend and hermetically seal off the next door table and their banshee child

CrossWords Tue 21-Sep-10 17:37:57

No tiled floor - this together with the too small highchairs/ no booster seat for big chairs has meant DS has fallen off chair onto floor twice in different PEs

Why not be able to order on line before arriving to speed up process?

Maybe have on the menu a bigger (rectangular?) pizza can order to share with ability to have different toppings on different sections - reduces clutter on table

Yes to other stuff for kids to do, eg communal lego/jigsaw etc table

jugglingact Tue 21-Sep-10 21:22:27

I'd like to see some information card/ learning / discussion card for families while you eat the food For example - pizza comes from Italy; can you find Italy on the map?
The tomatoes on this pizza are grown in .... they take.... so long to grow. Where more exotic toppings are sourced from, so that children feel responsible and interested in not just eating but food consumption, production and the ethics of a food chain. This would give restaurants like Pizza Express a huge edge over other chains. all the suggestions posted are valid - but a good meal is not just about the food, the company and the conversation are equally as vital. promoting discussion, getting people debating and inspired about our world are skills our children would love whilst tucking into a delicious pizza!

snice Tue 21-Sep-10 22:38:42

Please God NOT a communal Lego table!

As others have pointed out a lot of us go to PE as its an affordable restaurant experience. If I wanted my children to play with (probably manky) toys and watch TV I'd stay at home.

If you are going to have a children's menu then please put something other than ice cream as a dessert - surely some sort of cake would be possible?

Other than that I wouldn't change much other than to reiterate the plea from many people not to serve small children with drinks in narrow base highball glasses-they will get knocked over at some point.

To those of you asking for free nibbles on arrival, jugs of iced tap water, free baby purees et al I think you are forgetting that this is a profit driven organisation-restaurants make huge profits on drinks for example so the last thing they want to do is remove the potential for that profit. This explains why they are
a)so keen to bring drinks immediately so that you will need another by the time your food arrives, and
b)offer salty thirst making starters such as olives/garlic bread

BoffinMum Wed 22-Sep-10 09:52:20

Here we go. My ideal restaurant.

1. Have a person greet you when you come in and seat you before your kids kick off.

2. Have some clean highchairs available, big enough for toddlers as well.

3, Bring courses and the bill promptly.

4. Offer half sizes of everything on the menu, with the addition of an empty plate for toddlers so they can have bits of everyone else's food. Offer milk or tap water to kids if they want something other than a fizzy drink. If people want puree, sell them a sachet of Plum babyfood.

5. Shut other guests up if they complain about breastfeeding or natural toddler restlessness.

6. Make sure the nappy changing table is not too minging.


That's it.

Put in TV screens or lego and I will avoid your pizza chain like the plague. Similarly most of the other things people were suggesting. I want to have a nice pasta and a bit of salad with a glass of Pinot Grigio whilst not being on edge all the time listening to mummies fussing away and other people's children rampaging in critical mass form. Children should fit in with us (in an age specific way), not the other way around.

hobbgoblin Wed 22-Sep-10 11:35:24

Service wise:

Patience has to be the most important trait a member of waiting staff can have.

To actively support BF so if other customers get snippy about it they defend the BFer rather than be apologetic to the narky customer.

To be flexible about the menu, so having all veg available with all meals - not salad if you have one thing and veg if you have another, being able to hold the sauce on a pasta dish, that sort of thing. Good for fussy eaters.

Parents being able to order a bit of this and a bit of that without feeling as though you ought to order a main even though you are eating with DH later on.

Scrupulously clean highchairs.

A 'good little customers' charter for the child customers so that other kids are dissuaded from getting down and running about or shrieking excessively with excitement.

The last one is a prescriptively bad idea because pfb parents would HATE it, but I'd love it.

Decent cutlery so that little ones can have proper knived and forks and not plastic, but not oversized for little hands either.

No hot plates.

No hot plates or hot drinks hovering over DC heads ever.

Aitch Wed 22-Sep-10 12:47:29

i'm finding it weird that no-one from PE has had the courtesy to come onto this thread and thank us for our invaluable input. (and apologise for all those many hours of slooooooooooooooow service).

Alibabaandthe40nappies Wed 22-Sep-10 13:03:52

Aitch me too - I would have expected some response by now.

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Wed 22-Sep-10 13:45:14

It's a bit remiss of them Aitch, isn't it.

Mousey84 Wed 22-Sep-10 14:49:39

I havent read everything, and Im not entirely sure if it would work in PE, but a wee local pizza place used to give kids sme bits of pizza dough to make their own shapes with, then baked it for them. Prob some big H&S thing now...but I like the idea still.

pinkypanther Wed 22-Sep-10 15:48:50

I'd like to see children's party facilities - not for toddlers but for older children, so special party menu and perhaps a birthday cake or decorated dessert for the birthday child? With party bags etc provided.

Otherwise, wider doors for buggies, buggy parking (think this has all been mentioned), milk/baby food warming facilities.

florencerose Sun 26-Sep-10 11:06:57

Less salt in their food!! (really important this-salt is major cause of stroke and heart disease and children need to be 'protected' from acquiring a taste for it. I've had meals there that have been almost inedible because of the salt content)

Childrens drinks in plastic cups, ideally with a free refill if knocked over! plus more variety how about milk? I'd also like to see them included on their kids menu and the best kids menus come in at under £5.

For my final one I asked my kids, they came up with adding a playzone, more toppings on the pizza (and my oldest said bigger pizzzas!!) get strawberry icecream have some videos or hand held computer games to use while waiting!!!

Not very demanding my lot!!
Aside from the salt issue we recently went to a fab pizza express (the previous time we had been it was so dreadful I'd avoided it for about 3 years) what made it was the staff they were kind tolerant of children bought the colouring immediately and took them off to help make the ice creams! i can privately tell you which one if it helps they were the best staff I've seen in a restaurant for years!

1. Child-size cutlery would be brilliant.
2. Is there any way the food could arrive slightly cooled? DS is always famished by the time the pizza arrives, and then has to wait another 10 minutes until it's cool enough to eat.
3. Perhaps a facility where you can call ahead with your order and credit card number, to remove those elements of the process?

Katisha Sun 26-Sep-10 11:25:55

Unless it has stopped in the last couple of years, I think they already do parties for children. DS1 had one there some years ago where they all made their own pizzas and then ate them.
We brought the birthday cake, but they handed out the (then) usual paper chef hats and colouring/lacing type things.

freefruit Sun 26-Sep-10 23:59:24

oh I have a PE BF story......
was in that part of London known as nappy valley...
it was a wet Tuesday dark about 6 pm
we went in, chairs have high backs I'm a pretty discrete feeder, we ordered so I decided to give dc a quick top up so we could eat without having to feed half way through.

I'm setting the scene here, loads of kids in the area, a short discrete feed from someone who doesn't overexpose, early in the evening...

suddenly there was this screaching and shouting from accross the restaurant. It took me a little while to realise it was a mad old woman who was sitting 2 tables behind me complaining that I was breastfeeding.

Our waitor (who was a youth of about 16!!) blushed redder than red and defended me then came and told me not to worry (I kind of wasn't since it was only then that I realised that she was objecting to someone eating in a restaurant)

anyway I was really impressed that he defended me I'm sure it's not easy for a young man to do so only time anyone has ever objected she was clearly mad she left before we did and shouted and complained her way accross on the way out too!

oh they do parties here too (make your own pizza)

freefruit Mon 27-Sep-10 00:29:23

agree the pasta is yuck only had it once never again and wont let the dcs order it!

What was that shrinking the size of the pizzas thing a few years ago? we did notice you know......
agree it can get expensive

2 adults and 5 children ate in our local PE the other week and the bill was over £80, I used to have a 3 course meal there with alcohol for a tenner!!
(am I showing my age? grin)

tiokiko Mon 27-Sep-10 20:00:39

Look at what Centotre in Edinburgh offer for kids - different priced menu for v young (under 5) and under 10s I think.

Lovely food for wee ones - tasting plate (as PP above suggested) with pasta in butter sauce, pasta in tomato sauce, sauteed spinach and 2 teeny meatballs. Also a smoothie or juice, ice-cream cone (good quality vanilla) and a babycino.

Comes before adults unless you ask otherwise and that really helps.

Probably not as generally child-friendly as PE but the food on offer is brilliant and doesn't feel like a lame option for kids.

Aitch Mon 27-Sep-10 20:15:21

i LOVE centotre. love love love. and the people who run it are completely passionate about italian food.

we were going to go to PE today but my sil reminded me the last time we went there was black pepper on dd's pizza and i had to ask them to take it back as she hates any 'spike' at all in food.

cue a distinctly odd exchange between self and waitress where she denies pepper is on pizza, i say it is, she says no, it's oregano, i say no, i've tasted it between my teeth and it's pepper and besides it's black etc and she basically refused to do anything about it.


amidaiwish Mon 27-Sep-10 20:23:11

I go to PE a lot, at least weekly and do you know what really pees me off the most:

in Teddington they charge £2.25 for an apple juice for a child. this apple juice (from a 2l milk type carton) is then served in an ikea-esque scruffy half chewed tumbler. boak. and fricking big fat cheek at that price.
same with the ice cream - little scoop in an ikea plastic bowl

in Twickenham service is SO MUCH BETTER and you actually get a decent (clear at least) sized but still tumbler of apple juice and the ice cream is served in a glass bowl.

people of pizza express - children over the age of about 2 DO NOT NEED CRAPPY PLASTIC CUPS AND BOWLS!!! when was the last time a child dropped one hey?

1) give kids decent crockery
2) sort out your kids' drinks prices, or even better include them in the price. (or i am just going to order tap water).
3) service generally is a bit hit and miss. very good in Richmond and Twickenham, BAD in Teddington, variable in Kingston (opposite station).

AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 11-Oct-10 13:50:15

Am pleased to say FlyingInTheCLouds name came out of the hat and she wins £250 of PE vouchers - am email is on its way to you smile

SylvanianFamily Tue 12-Oct-10 14:14:19

I know this is closed, but can I add:

- do not put dandruffy unadvertised grated cheese on top of kids food without asking. And if you do, and the kid won't touch it, please provide a replacement quicker that twenty minutes! That was actually the Jamie Oliver restaurant, but not great for Dd.

- imaginative nandos style puzzles are better than colouring. Last time we got these push out little chicken shapes, a push out spinner and other bits which turn into a little game. Novelty value = quieter meal.

- bread on arrival. Kids juice in small dilute portions - to stop them filling up on a pint of neat apple juice before the food arrives.

It's slightly bizarre that the first thing they are advertising as new and improved is playdough....

Did we mention playdough? Or did it get lost in the "better service please?"

SylvanianFamily Tue 12-Oct-10 17:16:10

I think the USP is that it's actual dough, rather that play dough, iyswim

Nickydoffay Tue 19-Oct-10 13:36:40

Impressed with service already but possibly:
1. Child sized/ plastic cutlery, plates etc
2. Maybe a pizza with a face!
3. Age appropriate colouring sheets with sharp pencils!

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