Today’s parents are more food engaged than ever before, so it makes sense that their kids would be, too. There’s been a 31% increase in children’s menu offerings from 2009 to 2016, according to FONA International, and Millennials’ foodie proclivities are also influencing their kids’ tastes and may open the door for kids’ menus to go in even more interesting directions in the future, says Caleb Bryant, Mintel foodservice analyst.
Five out of 10 kids enjoy adventurous ethnic cuisines, and good-tasting, high-quality food is the strongest driver behind Generation Z’s restaurant preferences, according to Technomic. Forty-eight percent of Gen Zers—those aged 20 and younger—list natural and unprocessed as the top attributes they seek in restaurant fare, followed by sustainable, 41%; high protein, 38%; and organic, 35%, according to FONA.
In addition, fine dining restaurants have been serving a younger set of customers. Some of these restaurants, like New York City’s Gramercy Tavern, do not offer kids’ menus at all, expecting children to order from the regular menu. Others like Seattle’s Salare do provide children’s menus filled with sophisticated dishes like cauliflower soup and chicken with kale.
Some fine dining establishments are taking another route, closing down their dining rooms for an evening to accommodate parents and their kids, giving them a four-star experience they’d never dare to include kids in normally, says Robin Knight, executive creative director and director of insight and strategy for C3 Marketing, a family and kids marketing and design agency. And others, like actress Jessica Biel’s Los Angeles restaurant, Au Fudge, provide parents with an au pair or other form of care so that parents can enjoy their evening out while kids play. Children also order from a kids’ menu that offers smaller portions of the same food on the regular menu.
According to Knight, the experience of dining out in a restaurant appeals to kids because it helps give them agency in their food choices that they don’t get otherwise. “Kids love control. When kids eat at home, Mom and Dad decide what you eat; when you go out [and kids choose from a menu], that’s an expression of control,” she says. She adds that kids have very different tastes and that the ability to mix and match various deconstructed components in a dish allows them to put together meals that appeal to their personal likes and avoid what they dislike.
Melanie Zanoza Bartelme is associate editor of Food Technology magazine ([email protected]).
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