As the summer days wind down, kids get ready to head back to class and many parents start to plan out their fall schedules. Back to school time means families are focusing back on routines. While most families plan to eat at home more, in reality, busy schedules filled with football practices and scout meetings can make parents turn to more convenient dining options. Restaurants can support busy parents need for a break by offering simple kids menus and healthy, sophisticated options for adults.
Just because parents may be enticed by the convenience of eating out in between piano lessons and sport practices doesn’t mean they want to sacrifice on healthy meals. According to Flavor & The Menu, “young millennial parents… consider healthy kids’ meals an expectation, not an exception to the rule. ‘Operators and menu developers are trying to do healthier meals, but they need to be as good as the meals that aren’t as good for you—the chicken nuggets of the world,’ adds Dave Zino, executive chef of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).”
The Packer reports that more than 42,000 locations nationwide now participate in the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program. In order to join the program, restaurants agree to offer and promote “a selection of qualifying menu items based on leading health organizations’ scientific recommendations, including the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines.” Above all else, the initiative places a focus on getting children to eat more fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy.
Beyond healthy dining options, operators need to keep in mind that kids are becoming conscious diners. Jennifer Giambroni, director of communications at the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), says that “consumers are increasingly aware of what they and their families are consuming when they eat out.” She adds that operators know they need to offer great-tasting, kid-friendly menu items that are high in nutritional value.
Fresh, locally-sourced meals are among those menu items. Establishments like Giggles-n-Hugs, a chain of casual kid-friendly restaurants based in Los Angeles, features California cream cheese on its popular Walnut, Cucumber, and Cream Cheese Roll. With recipes this fun, kids don’t even know they’re eating healthy and their parents are satisfied.
When looking to amp up your restaurant’s kid’s menu, try these easy tips:
- Add colorful fruits & veggies
- Add whole grains
- Offer lean protein
- Serve kid size portions of healthful drinks or smoothies