Uno Pizzeria & Grill CEO Jim Ilaria knows what it’s like to be a parent working amid the coronavirus crisis.
He has two 13-year-olds at home, like many of his pizza chain’s customers.
“This threw a lot of families into turmoil,” Ilaria said. “As things started getting scarier and news started getting worse, we’re thinking about the kids. They see body bags on TV. How do we provide normalcy for these children in this challenging time?”
Uno launched a $5 make-your-own pizza kit for kids that includes crust, sauce, cheese, pepperoni, instructions, crayons and a pizza coloring sheet. The kits had previously been offered for dine-in only, but are now available for delivery and takeout.
The chain is giving away 1,000 of the kits to Boston-area kids so they can host virtual birthday parties via web conference.
“It’s a great way for them to reconnect with schoolmates and their friends,” he said. “We feel it’s really a part of our brand because pizza equals connection. This is all about reconnecting people.”
With families stuck in the house together to slow the spread of the coronavirus, restaurant operators are looking at kids meals with fresh eyes to drive traffic and boost sales.
Some are offering delivery deals on kids meals, while others are opting for creative and interactive menu offerings and more.
Olive Garden, which has seen its same-store sales fall nearly 60% amid the COVID-19 pandemic, is now running a $1 kids meal deal with the purchase of an adult dinner entree.
Fast-casual pizza chain PizzaRev is offering a free kids meal with purchase of an adult entree. Similarly, Firehouse Subs is pushing a free kids combo with the purchase of a medium or large sub. Young customers can also ask their parents to download a printable activity sheet.
Other operators are also adding interactive offerings to their menus to provide some family entertainment for those who are cooped up at home.
Einstein Bros. Bagels, for example, launched a pizza bagel kit as well as a bagel sandwich-making kit.
“As more consumers continue to work from home and schools remain temporarily closed, we know that families are spending a lot of time together, and we want to make sure they make the most of it,” Chad Thompson, the chain’s vice president of culinary innovation, said in a statement.