The trick to creating a quality kid’s menu is to make it so that adults would want to order off it as well
For many parents, choosing where to eat out is not only influenced by convenience and their own personal choice, but also by what their kids want to eat, or should we say, what they want their kids to eat. The trick to creating a quality kid’s menu is to make it so that adults would want to order off it as well.
If done well, introducing a children’s menu could not only improve customer loyalty, but could also grow your bottom line. Therefore, offering top quality food, drink and service is absolutely key.
The Soil Association’s ‘Out to Lunch’ is testament to this. Launched in 2013, the campaign works with restaurants and pub chains to improve the food and service offered to families when they eat out on the high street. Its latest survey in 2019, saw JD Wetherspoon top the league table, with Harvester hot on its heels, followed by Wahaca and Leon. JD Wetherspoon was praised for its range of healthy and filling children’s meals in sizes to suit all appetites. Kids are given a free piece of fruit with every meal and all the options for older kids come with two portions of vegetables.
Healthy kids meals
Since its launch, the Soil Association’s campaign has put organic on the menu at more than a dozen of the UK’s largest chains - including JD Wetherspoon and Harvester - removed 200 tonnes of sugar from children’s menus and put more than 10 million additional portions of vegetables on plates.
Rob Percival, head of food policy at the Soil Association, says health should be one of the main focus points on all kid’s menus - “The best children’s menus are those that make it easy and delicious for kids to enjoy a healthy meal. It’s a myth that children will only eat junk food, or that children’s menus need to be dumbed down. Parents have told us that they want restaurants to offer smaller portions of adult meals, or at least menus that are diverse and exciting. Some chains are going a step further by serving meals that are both healthy and sustainable, packed with delicious vegetables and sustainable ingredients. In the context of the climate and nature crises, it’s also important that chains serve organic and higher welfare meat, while encouraging kids to enjoy healthier plant proteins.”
Health is a major player within hospitality, there’s no doubt about that. Having said all of that, Tim Foster, founder of Yummy Pubs, believes that there is still a strong market for indulgence - “All of our menus in our pubs are freshly prepped so we control the balance of a healthy plate of food but a burger and chips can only be so healthy, therefore moderation is key. The younger kids are coming out for a treat, it’s as simple as that, so giving them the experience of what an adult can have always sits well with me.”
Experiment with smaller portions
Called ‘little people’, Yummy Pub’s children’s menu does just that. It offers a ‘half the size for half the price’ option, which works well for the business - “We don’t create special dishes for children. Instead we halve the sizes of a range of dishes on our main menus. Our firm favourites are fish and chips, our burgers, salads, and a large range of our puddings,” continues Tim.
“Experimenting with smaller portions of selected adult meals is certainly something to consider. Not all adult meals will be suitable, and children’s menus must be nutritionally balanced according to their age, but many parents would welcome more grown up and adventurous dishes for younger ones,” continues Rob.