What do parents and kids really think of children’s menus?
Value for money is crucial for any consumer these days, but when you’re a parent potentially paying for 3, 4 or even 5 people whenever you head out as a family, it’s even more important. If kids aren’t enjoying the experience, and potentially wasting the food they order, why would parents continue to fork out on meals out?!
We recently had a conversation about children’s menus, and we asked ourselves:
When was the last time we saw a children’s menu that really caught our eye? Got us excited? Made us wish we could order from it ourselves without being judged?!
And the conversation left us convinced that there is a lot more scope with children’s menus than we often think. And perhaps we don’t give children enough credit for their curious, ‘foodie’ natures.
So, we designed surveys for both 1,000 children aged 7-14, and 1,000 parents of children aged 3-16, to understand what they really think of children’s food and drink in restaurants, pubs and other eating out venues – and more importantly, what they’d like to see on menus.
As we suspected, our research revealed that despite almost 7 in 10 children children saying that eating out is a treat that they love, over 1 in 3 get bored of the choices on kids’ menus, and 1 in 4 wish kids’ menus were more exciting.
So, in this blog I’m going to run through 5 key things that both parents and children would like to see on kids’ menus, along with some hints and tips to help you incorporate these into your offering.
1. A range of portion sizes
43% of children told us the portions on children’s menu are too small. And for children aged 10 and over, the proportion rises to over half of them. Yet, at the same time, over a third of parents say their child typically wastes a lot of food at mealtimes. So, when it comes to portion sizes for children, it’s definitely not one size fits all!
Offering a range of portion sizes could help minimise food waste from younger children or smaller eaters, giving parents more value for money. And it’d also provide an upselling opportunity for operators, through tiered pricing options that customers can choose themselves.
Or, instead of bigger children’s meals… our research revealed an opportunity to offer smaller portions of “adult” meals. Almost half (44%) of children aged 7-14 said they’d prefer to have meals from the adult menu. And a further 45% told us they like trying their parents’ food. And 8 in 10 parents told us they’d be happy for their child to order options from the main menu if they came in smaller portions for children.
2. New foods they haven’t had before
Over half of parents (53%) like to encourage their child to try new foods when eating out. Yet at the same time, 7 in 10 parents would prefer to order something they know their child will eat as opposed to something they’ve not tried before.
So how can operators encourage more adventure with food, without going a step too far? Introducing global cuisines is one great way to do this. Particularly as 45% of children told us they think “trying new flavours and foods from around the world is exciting”.
Adding global twists to established, well-loved formats like noodles, rice, burgers or wraps could elevate a kids’ menu whilst keeping dishes familiar enough to have wide appeal. Take a look at our 2023 Trends recipes, like our “Cuban sliders” for some inspiration!
We asked children what their favourite cuisines were, and the top 6 were all loved by over half of children.
The cuisines children enjoy the most are:
- British (85%)
- American (84%)
- Italian (70%)
- Chinese (62%)
- Mexican (54%)
- Indian (53%)
Another great way to introduce new foods is using sharers or tapas-style small plates. Not only would this minimise the risk of food waste, and encourage kids to experiment more with new foods and flavours, but it’d also be a creative way to make children’s dining that bit different and perhaps more exciting.
3. More things to do
This is something that both parents and children, in equal measure, would like to see. Keeping children entertained can be a real challenge for parents, particularly when out of home in unfamiliar environments.
In fact, 3 in 10 parents said a key challenge they face when taking their children out to eat is that their children get bored. And 2 in 5 children told us they’d like to see more activities or things to do in restaurants.
This is just as important for operators as it is the families themselves – because the longer the kids are entertained and having a good time, the longer the parents are likely to stay in the venue… and ultimately spend more! Providing a bit of fun and entertainment is also a good way to stand out from the crowd and provide added value to your customers. Which we all know is even more crucial in today’s economic climate.
You don’t need to re-vamp your whole concept or start building arcade games into your restaurant – you could include some fun games for the table, make menus into a foodie quiz. Our range of products can help make children’s meals more interesting and fun – like crayons (product code: 94028) and animal-themed kids’ meal boxes (94022; 92499).
You could even host some live entertainment on a Sunday (or whichever day you get the most family-led footfall!). And build-your-own own desserts, pizzas or dishes is a great way to provide some fun for kids, elevate the dining experience and make it more memorable. Plus, with staff shortages impacting many operators this year in particular, using lower skill options like this can make for a more efficient menu.
4. Exciting veg sides (parent’s request, needless to say…)
Encouraging kids to eat their 5-a-day can be a challenge, but it’s a priority for many parents. In fact, 2 in 3 parents said that as long as their child has a fruit or vegetable portion with their meal when eating out, they don’t mind what else they have.
Over half of children (53%) said they’d prefer their veg portion to be in a separate bowl from the rest of their meal. Splitting veg into side portions whilst keeping the same dish price could give parents a perception of getting more value for money. But the real challenge is making the veg more appealing for kids to eat, with half of them telling us they don’t enjoy eating vegetables. So it’s important for chefs to get creative!
Our Kids vs Carrots blog not only lists the most popular veg with kids these days, but it also includes some great ways to make veg more exciting for kids.
5. Last but not least… delicious desserts
Enough about vegetables. Let’s get to the fun stuff… over half of parents (55%) say their kids are more interested in desserts and sweet treats than main meals. And despite parents generally wanting their children to eat healthily and increase their fruit and veg intake – 8 in 10 parents say that eating out is a treat and they just want their child to enjoy what they have.
So this is a great opportunity for operators to get kids really excited about menu choices. But it doesn’t need to be complicated.
We asked children what their favourite desserts were, and the number one winner was ice cream. This was followed by chocolate brownie, cookies, cake and chocolate.
Elevating ice cream options with fun toppings or slightly more unusual flavours can make your menu stand out from the crowd and give children a chance to try new foods too.
So, there we have it – what kids and parents really think of children’s menus… did anything surprise you?
We also asked parents what the priorities were for them when choosing a place to eat out at, and if their children were choosing a venue, what their priorities would be too. The number one thing parents were concerned with, is finding a venue with “a child friendly atmosphere”. The priority for kids when choosing a place to eat out, is an appealing range of food.
Creating an appealing, unique and inspiring children’s menu that kids will get excited about is a great way of communicating that children are not only welcome in your venue, but they’re truly valued. Plus, it’ll likely make you a hit with kids… and we all know how good they can be at getting their own way!
Bidfood & 3Gem, bespoke consumer survey, 1,000 UK parents of children aged 4-13, October 2022
Bidfood & 3Gem, bespoke consumer survey, 1,000 UK children aged 7-14, October 2022