March 15th, 2013

Who Stole My Chicken Nuggets? The Evolution of the Kids Menu.

Posted in Celebrity Chefs, Restaurants, Trends

One of the biggest trends in hospitality starts on your kids’ plate. No, really! Kids are demanding more than chicken fingers and mac n’ cheese for dinner. Their palates are expanding with a desire for more flavorful and interactive food. A focus on healthy eating and a stronger global food consciousness among young eaters as well drive this trend. Restaurants all over the country are answering the call with healthier, more upscale fare. Smaller portions of adult entrees are making their way on to kids’ menus all across the country.

Hyatt restaurants have partnered with Haile Thomas (she’s an 11 year old YouTube sensation with her own cooking show) and Alice Waters (do I need to elaborate?) to bring you “For Kids by Kids”. It’s a program available at all full-service Hyatt Restaurants in the US and the Caribbean and is in conjunction with “Partnership for a Healthier America”. Menu offering ranges from a top your own taco breakfast to a shaken chopped salad at lunch, and a 3-course tasting menu for dinner developed by Alice Waters.

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It seems that even Disney’s Magic Kingdom is in on the trend: the standard fare is replaced by “Mickey Meatloaf” and seared Mahi Mahi for lunch, with a grilled steak as the highlight of the diner menu.

In the chain restaurant segment, several restaurants stand out with their kids’ menu offerings:

Big Bowl: Their menu reflects smaller portions of the adult menu, including chicken satay, teriyaki ribs, and chicken Pad Thai. This chain out of the Chicago area has done very well putting together a diversified kids menu.

Silver Diner: An East Coast chain, Silver Diner lets the kids decide the menu. Kids submitted a short video of why they were qualified to pick the new menu items. Thirty 34 kids were invited to the Silver Diner in Rockville, MD to vote on their favorites. There were 5 matchups, and kids were asked to vote on taste, visual appeal, and whether they would order it again.

The Chop House: A chain with locations in Ohio, Tennessee, and Georgia, the Chop House does offer chicken tenders and spaghetti on the menu, but takes its menu a step further. How about grilled pork chop or prime rib and mashed potatoes? Or BBQ ribs and fries? These are just a few items that make me want to order off the kids’ menu!

This is a trend to watch, and one I am happy to say is a step in a positive direction for the foodservice industry.