Children’s menus are common practice in the foodservice industry. They exist in almost every restaurant, regardless of the quality of the establishment. The selection usually consists of little finger foods, including pizza, cheese sticks, hot dogs, and the all-time crowd-favorite – chicken fingers. As much as the average kid loves breaded chicken, who decided that these were restaurant staples for kids meals? Options on these mini menus are great sources of fat, fat and more fat. The nutritional value of anything on the menu is scarce at best, and non-existent in most cases. Kids menu items certainly appeal to kids, though, because the choices are usually delicious. They appeal to you as a restaurant owner because they’re cheap as can be and keep the kids happy enough to allow the parents to order more. But is this all really necessary? Last time we checked, children are humans too. Why are their options limited, and further why are they limited to junk foods and snack foods? Does your restaurant really need a children’s menu as an option?
Children’s Menus and Kid’s Health
Fast food chains make it a point to create a market strategy specific to kids. This isn’t on it’s own a bad thing, but the implications of it are ruining the health of children everywhere in America. Companies in the fast food industry spend just about ¼ of their marketing budgets targeting 2 to 17 year olds. The result: 13% of the calories ingested by children aged 2 to 11 and over 40% of the calories taken in by children between 12 and 17 are from fast food products. If you are in a middle-income minority neighborhood or rural space, the odds of you being a target audience for fast food marketing increase significantly. So, consumers are already trained to understand that fries, burgers and sodas are a completely normal part of any youngster’s diet and eating habits. Fast food choices, and by comparison children’s menu items, are unhealthy. Eating these foods consistently creates poor eating habits and insatiable cravings, where the kids desire more and more of the bad stuff. Your restaurant may not intentionally be feeding into this system, but you could easily avoid being a part of the obesity epidemic.
Children’s Menu Alternatives
Most of the proposed ideas aren’t huge changes, but they’ll make a big difference to the overall future of these hungry kids. The traditional children’s menu is no longer the correct solution for health-minded restaurants with a conscious. Instead, give a few of these alternatives a shot and start your progressive movement away from unhealthy options:
Make the Healthy Options Obvious
If your children’s menu already contains a few healthy choices: good job! You’re certainly on the right path. The idea is not to let snack foods be the norm for children when they’re eating out at restaurants. Habitual consumption of fatty foods like chicken fingers will never be considered the healthy choice. This is especially true for regulars at your establishment who bring their children, but it’s applicable to anyone who steps into the restaurant with kids. Give a subtle nudge to your customers and their children by making the decent menu choices as apparent as possible. Make sure water and milk are listed as drink options ahead of sodas, lemonade, juices or other sugary drink options. Don’t make the default side dish french fries; clearly list choices like side salads or baked potatoes. Have grilled options alongside the fried ones, like you more than likely have on your full-fledged restaurant menu.
Same Food, Different Portions
You could easily do away with the children’s menu altogether by offering regular menu items in smaller portions. You don’t need to specifically have a kids burger if you just have the specialty burger options in a smaller size. As another example, steak salads could just have half the amount of steak and a reduced quantity of greens. These types of changes, so long as the don’t disrupt the kitchen workflow, could be simple alternatives to having a completely unhealthy children’s menu. Lower prices for that matter, too! Most adults would not appreciate having to pay full price for their kids to eat. If the meal is discounted and meal portion is halved, then the value of that meal would be greater to the customer.
Children’s menus are mostly unnecessary in this day in age. The options on these menus can be compared to fast food, which means that they are similarly unhealthy and lack proper nutritional value for growing children. Strive to offer healthy alternatives to your youngling customers. Give the parents and the kids obvious healthy choices within the scope of what your restaurant provides, just like you probably already do for your adult patrons. Finally, try offering the same foods from your regular menu in smaller packages to give a larger breadth of options, including healthier ones!
What are your thoughts on children’s menus?