A study by industry researcher, Technomic, Inc., Chicago, shows that children's menus account for more than 1,100 distinct menu items at the top 250 chains. This age group's eating fare also factors largely in the dining out decisions for many parents with kids. Technomic Information Services' "The Kids' Menu Report 2006" is designed to help chain operators understand how to appeal to children and their parents.
WORK WITH OPERATORS FOR WINNING RESULTS "Driving sales through kid's meals is a growing importance to foodservice operators. A better understanding of kid's eating habits and parent's attitudes toward purchases represents a merchandising opportunity for distributors to operators, especially independents. Working with them to provide timely, relevant information can provide winning results." Darren Tristano, managing director of Technomic Information Services, told ID Access.
The report canvassed children's menus in both limited and full-service restaurants, providing detailed reporting and key takeaways on menu variety, proteins and desserts. Of particular interest are the insights from interviews conducted with 500 parents, across the U.S., of children under 11 years of age.
Kim Rothstein, principal with The Hale Group, San Francisco, offered ID Access corroborating observations by stating, "Recent IFMA/IFDA research reveals that meal occasions at home are preferred by consumers when the entire family is involved. The foodservice industry can win more family occasions by offering kid-friendly menus for dining in, and by improving their offerings for take-out kids' meals."
The study discovered the following:
Nearly 80% of parents cite the existence of a kids' menu as an important factor in choosing a limited-service restaurant. This number approached 90% for parents of three-to-eight-year-olds.
At full-service restaurants, kids' menu usage peaks at ages three to five, dropping slightly for six-to-eight-year-olds. Once children reach age nine, however, usage drops steeply.
From the time kids can talk, "what kids want" dominates the decision-making process, accounting for 80% of the reason parents order off kids' menus at both full- and limited-service restaurants. Value, toys, habit, and healthfulness all take a back seat to kids' food preferences.
"Chain operators hoping to improve sales through menu offerings and marketing messages targeting kids and their families will find the data and insights presented here extremely valuable," Tristano said.