Independent Operators Taking Kids

The new report provides in-depth analysis of the kids' menu category for the 250 largest chain restaurants as well as leading emerging chains and independents. "The ability to develop menu offerings around a local, organic or natural culinary focus is a trademark of independent concepts that operate in the higher-end, fine-dining realm," says Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic. "Parents who value these attributes in food are beginning to steer their children away from mac-and-cheese and chicken finger entrees in favor of fresh seafood, baked or grilled chicken, organic vegetables and premium cuts of meat. This trend has notable trickle-down potential for the Top 250 chains."

In addition, kids' marketing initiatives for leading limited-service and full-service restaurant chains are assessed. Some of the most common tactics used by limited-service chains are the menuing of kids' combo meals, availability of toys and prizes, websites with online activities, birthday clubs and play areas, while full-service chains often promote "kids eat free" nights, birthday clubs and family-sized to-go meals.

Other interesting findings include:
•    Seventy-eight percent of the Top 250 chain restaurants have menus specifically for children. The occurrence is higher for full-service restaurants (88.1 percent) than for limited-service ones (70.5 percent).
•    Among menus of the Top 250 chains, pasta, sandwiches and chicken are the most popular children's lunch and dinner entrees. Dips such as barbecue, honey mustard and sweet-and-sour sauces were used to impart flavor and differentiate offerings.
•    Healthy offerings are growing in children's menus. There is an uptick in the number of listings of vegetables and fruits, healthy beverages and smoothies, and items described as natural or organic.
•    There is growing preference for bolder, spicier flavors like teriyaki, chili and chipotle. Children are broadening their accepted flavors beyond those found in traditional American fare.

In addition to in-depth analysis, the 2009 Technomic Kids' Marketing & Menu Report includes appendices breaking down data by restaurant category as well as all of the kids' menus offered by the Top 250 restaurant chains and by the emerging chains.

For more information about the report, visit www.foodpubs.com


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