Trending Now: Giving Kids’ Menus a Flavor Kick

Research studies are showing what operators have been noticing for the past several years; families with kids just aren’t dining out as much as they once did. A recent report from Mintel shows that 41% of parents say they are preparing more food at home than the year before. Put simply, parents and kids aren’t finding what they’re looking for on the kids’ menu, and parents don’t feel good about the healthfulness of what’s there either.


Here are a few stats that stand out for kids’ menus:

75% of parents want healthier sides

60% of parents want more interesting options

43% of parents allow their kids to choose the restaurant

30% of parents say options for kids should have all-natural ingredients


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 a chef to do? Here’s a top 3:

  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, spicy and bold flavors, more vegetables, and a bit more complexity
  3. Appeal to parents with “feel good” food choices and cues – hormone-free, antibiotic-free, organic, natural

Where we’re seeing it:

Ace Eat Serve, Denver – Wok-Tossed Rice Noodles with a choice of protein, Dim Sum, Naked Wings, or Bao Buns, which come in Fried Chicken, Char Siu Pork, Short Rib, Mushroom or PB&J for the picky eaters. All kids’ meals come with a healthy trio of sticky rice, steamed veggies and fresh fruit.

Applebee’s – Options include “Chicken Grillers” instead of fried chicken tenders, 8 different side items and no sodas as default. Offer younger/older kids menus and smaller portions of adult menu items, inclluding fried shrimp and 4 oz. sirloin.

Chick-fi-la – Now offering grilled nuggets as an option in Kids’ Meals; 2 of the 3 side options are cinnamon apple sauce and a fruit cup. All Kids’ Meals under 230 calories.

Corner Bakery – Side dish options: apple juice, baby carrots, banana, fruit cup medley, grapes and organic 1% milk; gluten-free options; all kids’ menu options under 570 calories; all menu items are free of artificial trans fats.
Finally, here’s an idea to go – a honey-sriracha noodle bowl. It uses whole grain spaghetti for the noodles and colorful veggies for solid health credentials, and a customizable format with a sweet-spicy sauce. Everyone wins!