Trending Now: Kids Menus 2.0

Research studies are showing what operators have been noticing for the past several years; that families with kids just aren’t dining out as much as they used to. A recent report from Mintel showed that 41% of parents say they are preparing more food at home than the year before. Keep in mind, this is happening when the economy is improving and families have more disposable income to spend. Though retailers are making inroads, restaurants have an advantage in that always-desired convenience for busy families…so what’s going on?

Put graph for trending nowsimply, parents and kids aren’t finding what they’re looking for on the Kids menu, and in particular parents don’t feel good about the healthfulness of what’s on the Kids menu.  These are the top 10 Kids menu items:

Here are the stats that stand out for Kids menus:

Kids want fresh foods, and homemade foods – it’s what they mean when they say they want healthy and high-quality. They also expect the power to customize, thanks to growing up with fast-casual restaurants.


So what’s an operator to do? Here’s a top 5:

  1. Add more choices overall, especially with side dishes, allowing for mixing and matching for customization and variety
  2. Make choices more “adult” with more fresh and natural foods, more vegetables, and a bit more complexity
  3. Appeal to parents with “feel good” food choices – hormone-free, antibiotic-free, organic, natural
  4. Balance healthy choices with “fun food” in controlled portions, and make it easy to choose a healthier option
  5. Micro-target your menu so there are choices for younger and older kids


Where we’re seeing it:

  • Noodles & Co: Kids Meals – customizable with choice of Spaghetti and Meatballs, Wisconsin Mac & Cheese, Buttered Noodles or Grilled Chicken Breast, healthy sides and a drink.
  • Mill Valley Kitchen, Minneapolis: Grass-fed Bison Burgers, Stealth-Health Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, Chicken Fingers breaded with freeze-dried corn and other veggies
  • Zoes Kitchen: Grilled Chicken Fingers, chicken salad sandwiches on wheat; fresh fruit cup side.


Finally, here’s an idea to go – the recipe for a stealth-health Mac and Cheese from our own Chef Lorenzo Boni.