Web site dishes delectable deals for kids' meals

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Stay-at-home mom Dana Davis found what appears to be a recipe for success in the kitchen of her Hilliard home.

Not on her stovetop, but on her laptop.

Like many American families, Davis, her husband and their two young sons enjoy eating at restaurants. Sometimes, though, the desire to dine out runs headlong into rising menu prices and tightening household budgets.

"It's amazing what a couple of grilled-cheese sandwiches can add up to," Davis said. "It can keep you from going out to eat when you have to add in the price of kids' meals."

Hoping to stretch her family's food dollars, Davis, 35, started paying close attention to the kid-related freebies and promotions offered by area restaurants.

She gathered so much useful information, she said, that she decided to create a Web site to share the money-saving tips -- and, at the same time, make some money.

The result is KidsMealDeals.com, which bears the slogan "Who, What, Where, When, WHY NOT!"

"Since inception, we've dedicated ourselves to providing current and accurate information on restaurants that offer great value to users like you," the site says.

Enter your ZIP code, the day of the week and the number of miles you're willing to drive, and you'll receive a list of the applicable restaurants offering family specials.

Soon, Davis said, you'll also be able to narrow the list by plugging in the kind of cuisine you're hungry for.

Restaurants pay to advertise their deals -- from $29.99 a month for basic listings to $69.99 a month for "enhanced" listings featuring additional details.

"We strive to create value for both the user and the restaurant establishment by providing a guide free of negative bias," the site says. (That's apparently a euphemistic way of saying a restaurant with free or discounted kids' meals can show up as an attractive dining option even if its food is lousy.)

"Our goal is to become the nation's most active and most used resource for this niche market on the Web."

Davis, who hopes to have 15,000 listings nationwide this summer, said she's pleased with the response thus far.

"Families are saying, 'Thank you so much for allowing us to get out, because it was impossible before,' " she said.

Participating restaurants seem happy, too.

"It has increased business a lot on Wednesday, at all locations," said Kyle Seymour, a manager at the Hoggy's in Dublin.

Each Wednesday, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., the barbecue restaurant offers one free child's meal for every adult entree.

"Servers love it," Seymour said. "You get kids running around with balloons, and we have a magician at the Dublin location every Wednesday as well."

Vera Jovanovic, a Dublin resident, was at the restaurant on a recent Wednesday with her husband and two daughters, but she didn't realize it was "Kids Eat Free" night.

"If I'd known," she said, chuckling, "I would've made them eat more."