Fun, Flavorful, Exciting – Keys to Kids’ Menus

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As concern over childhood obesity continues to heat up, the food industry is coming under increasing pressure to offer better-for-you options for customers of every age group.

An article in Forbes magazine hit the nail on the head, chronicling restaurants’ efforts to offer healthier kids’ meals while simultaneously questioning whether children will actually order or eat them.

Indeed, according to research from The NPD Group, sales of traditional kids’ meals at quick-service restaurants have been declining in recent years. This is due in part to the fact that fewer kids are dining out: In 2006, there were 21 billion parties-with-kids’ visits to restaurants, while in 2011 there were only 19.5 billion.

But there are also changes in the way the savviest marketers are reaching out to this demographic. In addition to eating out less frequently for economic reasons, suggests Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst, kids are becoming more sophisticated: “Just like adults, they want to try new things, new foods. Kids have a wider variety of foods and flavors available to them today than they had in the past.”

Offering more variety on kids’ menus, including downsized portions of select adult items and healthy alternatives, seems to be the way to any family’s heart.

Kids and their parents are responding to healthier foods, as long as they’re packaged and promoted in ways that are appealing to them. This is especially true of older kids over the age of 13.

As with adults, the “trick” to getting younger customers to make healthier choices is to downplay the health aspect in favor of fun, flavorful, and/or exciting foods, depending upon your own menu and service concept and the target age group you’re trying to reach. For example:

  • Grilled cheese and tomato sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Carrot-raisin salad
  • Confetti coleslaw (shredded cabbage with julienne carrots, red cabbage, sweet peppers, etc., mixed in)
  • Rice and noodle bowls
  • Finger-food vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, snap peas and even asparagus or broccoli
  • Sandwiches, pancakes, and the like cut into shapes
  • Sweet potato “tots”

Tips for Kids’ Menus

  1. Use fruits and vegetables to add color, sweetness, and texture as well as palate appeal.
  2. Emphasize items that are easy for small fingers to pick up and hold, like this Kids Island Slider.
  3. Add whole grains in the form of side dishes and mains, as well as bread, cereal, and so on.
  4. If all else fails, “sneak” produce and grains into foods: mac and cheese with vegetables folded in; a whole grain waffle topped with fruit and soft-serve yogurt; turkey pot pie with veggies under the crust.
  5. Create interactive items like lettuce wraps to roll, sauces to dip into, toppings to add, and so on. For instance, offer Kids Veggie Chili with add-you-own accompaniments like chopped tomatoes and sliced radishes.
  6. Offer lean protein, such as chicken, turkey, and fish, as well as low-fat dairy.
  7. Watch out for sodium levels.
  8. Make the meal as customizable as possible by offering a mix-and-match choice of sides, sauces, beverages and desserts; kids like to design their own meal, too.
  9. Entice with kid-size servings of juice, milk, and other healthful beverages.
  10. Keep it fun and kid-friendly. 

Content courtesy of Nestle Professional

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