Kids’ menus seen to lack innovation

Posted by Isobel Drake on 21st August 2009

Today’s kids’ menus continue to lack imagination, according to a report from America.

Mintel Menu Insights, which tracks restaurant menu trends, believes the average menu doesn’t offer enough variety or healthy food for children, with parents, kids and chefs alike calling out for better options.

Analyzing kids’ menus from 2005 to the present, Mintel Menu Insights sees the same clichéd foods repeated year after year. Chicken fingers steadily account for 10% of kids’ menu items, followed by grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni & cheese and burgers. Despite increasing health and obesity concerns, other top kids’ menu items include hot dogs and pizza.

“Our research shows parents want more nutritious options for their kids, and children are open to fruits, veggies and healthier versions of standard fare,” Maria Caranfa, RD and Director of Mintel Menu Insights, advised. “The generic kids’ menu really doesn’t meet the needs and desires of today’s families.”

Only three in 10 parents say their children eat healthy food at restaurants. But Mintel found kids will eat fruits and veggies. More than three in four children (77%) are open to ordering foods with vegetables, and six in seven (86%) would order items containing fruit.

Some restaurants have started toying with healthier menus for kids. Despite chips remaining the most common side (offered with 66% of kids’ menu items), fruits and vegetables have risen in popularity (now at 43% and 39%, respectively). Even rice and salad (18% each) are showing up as kids’ side options.

Additionally, more restaurants now use menu descriptors to quantify health. “Fresh” is the top marketing claim on kids’ menus, appearing on 17% of items during Q2 2009. In Q2 2005, only 8% of kids’ menu items carried the “fresh” claim.

“Restaurants dabble in healthier menus for kids, but there’s still significant work to be done,” Ms Caranfa said. “Health and obesity issues, the popularity of ethnic foods and increased media coverage are creating pressure for revamped kids’ menus. Soon, health and menu variety will be the new standards in kids’ dining.”

Mintel pointed to recent introductions on some menus like grilled chicken strips with a fresh garden salad, fresh apple fries, and tropical citrus salad with chicken as ideas that could prove successful.