Planning a Kids' Menu: Is It Worth the Extra Time and Effort?

While you may not have gone into the restaurant industry to create elaborate meals for children, it may make sense for you to offer a kids' menu. For many families, kids play a huge part in dining decisions and their options can be just as important as the main menu. This is especially true for kids today, who grow up watching Food Network and have high expectations when it comes to what goes on their plate. Here are some tips and considerations to keep in mind when designing your kids' menu—or deciding whether to offer one at all.

Not Every Restaurant Needs One

If you're a chef at a fine-dining restaurant, then kids are likely not a part of your day-to-day routine. On the rare occasion that you do have a young patron, their parents will either share with them or order for them. If this is the case, don't worry about planning a designated kids' menu. Instead, you can have a couple more basic dishes on your menu that are relatively kid-friendly. For instance, most kids like pasta or pizza.

If, on the other hand, you often have children eating at your restaurant, having an entire designated menu for kids is a smart idea. A wide assortment of kid-friendly options will not only keep the kids happy, but their parents will be impressed. And when the kids ask to return to your establishment, their parents will be more likely to agree.

Things to Consider

Think of Kids as Your Target Customers

Have you ever thought about the fact that kids might be your target customer? Since parents typically pay the bill, you may think of them as your target customer. However, many restaurants target kids when designing their menu and overall concept. Take a look at one of the largest fast food chains in the world, for instance. They created a marketing campaign specifically around meals that were tailored to children. You don't have to go as far as including a toy with each meal, but if you create an experience for kids that's exciting, fun, and tasty, they will likely ask their parents to come again.

Is a Menu for Kids Going to Be Profitable?

Many restaurants use promotional offerings, such as one night a week where kids eat for free, to attract parents. In this example, the kids' menu becomes a loss leader in comparison to the adult menu. So before implementing a dedicated menu, make sure it can stand on its own and bring in a profit. When it comes to costs, it should be treated like any other item on your menu.

Designing Your Kids' Menu

Once you have a clear vision, you can make those last critical decisions. Here are a few things to consider when designing a menu for kids:

  • Know Your Customers: If you cater to a more sophisticated clientele, then your menu should be a bit more than the standard chicken nuggets and fries. Instead, consider going with hand-breaded fried chicken breast with mashed potatoes and gravy. It's important to come up with a variety of dishes that kids will like, but they should also be consistent with your brand.
  • Decide on a Size: Your kids' menu should be directly proportionate to the size of your regular menu. If you have a huge menu with 40 offerings, then your menu for kids should also be extensive. If you only offer a dozen items, then your menu for kids should be smaller.
  • Get Creative: Macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, and burgers don't need to be on every menu for kids. If you own a Mexican restaurant, offer a quesadilla or chicken taco with your own special spin. Just try to tone it down with garnishes, sauces, and herbs. After all, most kids don't like chopped parsley on their macaroni and cheese.
  • Build Your Brand: The design of your menu should match your entire brand. If your establishment is more family-friendly and fun, then go with a menu that's not only visually appealing, but also easy to read. On the other hand, if your brand represents a more sophisticated look and feel, maintain that style in your children's menu as well.
  • Don't Forget Drinks: Just like your adult patrons, kids enjoy beverages that complement their meals and are fun to drink. In addition to the standard milks, juices, and sodas, parents and kids alike will appreciate something special, like a flavored lemonade or virgin daiquiri. Serve it in a special glass or cup to top off the experience.

Don't discount the palate or expectations of kids today. While many restaurants offer menus for kids, make sure you think about these considerations before offering one at your establishment. If your clientele consists mainly of families, a well-designed kids' menu can help you attract more business and flex your creativity.

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