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In the increasingly challenging world of hospitality, catering to families can be a vital component of success. And if you’re catering for families, you inevitably need a children’s menu option. Yet so often, businesses forget about it whilst investing time and energy in menu development, and then throw something together as an afterthought.

As a parent myself, I guarantee that parents seek out restaurants that not only offer a welcoming atmosphere for children, but also cater well to the needs and preferences of their little ones – and that’s not just by offering chicken nuggets and chips!

So what should you be thinking about when developing a children’s menu?

1. Age-appropriate options

One size does not fit all, and a great menu for a three year old is not going to be a great menu for a twelve year old. Children (like adults) vary greatly in their tastes, dietary restrictions and appetite sizes. A good children’s menu should reflect this diversity, offering a range of options suitable for different age groups, from toddlers to pre-teens. You may even consider two menus, e.g. ages 7 and under, and ages 8-12.

This doesn’t mean the extra expense of a whole new stack of products in stock – just clever, creative menu design utilising ingredients and smaller portions from your main menu.

2. Nutritional balance

Providing healthier choices and different flavours is not only appreciated by most parents, but also aligns with the growing concern for children’s health and wellness. Consider incorporating more fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains into the menu – even if they’re ‘hidden’.

Eating out should be a treat, but should also be an opportunity to try something new. You don’t have to eliminate your chicken nuggets and chips (and it may still be your best seller), but offering other options will enhance your family friendly credentials and encourage new customers. Chicken curry, tacos, pasta bolognaise, chicken Caesar salad, fish pie and stir fries are really popular, and provide much more balanced meals.

3. Allergy awareness

Recent studies are showing an increase in food allergies among children. It is crucial for hospitality venues to take this into account when crafting their children’s menus. Clearly list all ingredients and offer allergy-friendly alternatives when possible.

4. Fun and engaging design

The visual appeal of a children’s menu matters as much as the food it offers. Children deserve an easy to navigate, intelligently designed menu, in the same way that adults do. But the design can be made more stimulating and age appropriate through the use of playful fonts, vibrant colours, humour, and fun illustrations.

Including puzzles or games can help keep children entertained (and off i-pads) whilst waiting for their food – but do your research and remember to be age-appropriate. Don’t just hand out a boring colouring sheet with a teddy bear on to an eleven year old!

5. Team training

A brilliant family restaurant experience expends beyond the menu itself. Team members should be knowledgeable about the children’s menu, be able to recommend dishes based on children’s preferences, and be empathetic, patient and friendly when serving families. A positive and child-friendly attitude can be the highlight of the dining experience.

E.g. When my children were younger, our local Frankie and Benny’s had a wonderful Polish waitress who always remembered their names and made them feel really welcome. They used to beg us to go there and see her, and she taught them new words in Polish every time we visited!

Remember, happy children mean happy parents, who will keep coming back, and tell all their friends. And that translates into a long term thriving business!

For more details and to see examples of the many children’s menus we have created at Pure Leisure Marketing, please do get in touch.