Kids menus have long been a forgotten part of the foodservice landscape, a place where obligatory, standard items reign, and little if any innovation takes place. But as demographics shift and competition for scarce consumer spending at restaurants heats up, change is coming. In pure demographic terms, there were 49.6 million kids age 0-11 in the U.S. in 2009, with that number set to increase by 5.2% by 2014. More importantly, married couples with children spend about $326 each month on foodservice, over 30% more than couples without children.
To capture those dollars and dining occasions, foodservice operators have to innovate to deliver the on-trend offerings that both kids and parents are looking for today. The good news is that the environment is ripe for innovation; tried and true kids’ favorites such as chicken nuggets/fingers and burgers remain dominant center-of-plate offerings – even Sundaes make the top 10. (see figure 1)
So what do families want? Recent studies of both kids and parents reveal some common themes.More than 65% of parents want healthier options, including more vegetables or hidden vegetables, and more fruit or hidden fruit. Interest in health is directly correlated with affluence; wealthier households put more emphasis on eating healthy.
Both kids and parents want more “adult” options on the kids menu, and more choices overall. A recent survey found that kids wanted options like pastas, fish and salad on their menu, and that broccoli was their favorite “healthy” food to eat.
In addition to healthy and more sophisticated choices, operators are finding success with interactive menu items, where kids get to “be the chef” and choose or mix and match items to create their own dishes like pizzas and pastas. Still others are co-branding the menu with household brands that both kids and parents recognize – though it’s not always about healthy choices – think Oreo® shakes and M&M’s® sundaes.
By working with those four themes and creating choices that are healthy, sophisticated, interactive or branded, operators can differentiate themselves from their competition andgive some of their most picky diners what they want.