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Millennial parents influence changes to kids menus

Heavier options make way for lighter, healthier proteins
Photograph: Shutterstock

Kids menus are a natural place for comfort foods such as chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese or cheeseburgers. And while these items are often sure bets for young taste buds, many parents—especially millennial parents, who have helped redefine what healthy means, now expect to see more better-for-you options.   

For this wellness-focused generation, though, healthy doesn’t simply mean low in calories or fat. Instead, millennials have adopted a more holistic view of health—one that is less beholden to nutritional guidelines and more centered around natural ingredients, freshly prepared whole foods and the absence of additives and preservatives.  

This passion for a health-forward lifestyle naturally extends into what they look for on kids menus when they dine away from home as a family.  

Millennial parents cite a healthy and varied kids menu as a top priority

According to Technomic’s 2018 Generational Consumer Trend Report, 47% of millennials are parents, and that number jumps to 54% among older millennials (ages 34-41). Their top traffic drivers for restaurants are kid-friendliness, a healthy and varied kids menu and new and exciting menu items. They also look for specific health attributes. More than any other generation, millennials are likely to purchase—and are willing to pay more for—items that are labeled fresh, made from scratch, real, premium, natural and clean. So how can operators ensure these diners will find what they’re looking for, both for their own meals as well as for their kids?

Refreshing kids menus with healthier options

Updating kids menus doesn’t mean throwing out tried-and-true favorites. Afterall, it’s important to maintain as sense of familiarity for those often-picky youngsters. What operators should do is take a measured approach to modifying their menu over time, eventually reaching a balance of traditionally popular dishes along with some new better-for-you options.

For instance, switching to lighter proteins is one easy change. Instead of traditional beef burgers or sliders, try offering turkey. Because turkey is lower in fat than beef, it offers parents a healthier option for kids without sacrificing great taste and a familiar format. At Burger Lounge, a fast-casual chain with locations in California and Chicago, this option already exists: Kids get a turkey burger made with organic American cheese, and the meal comes with a choice of fries or a salad.

Other instances of turkey burgers on the kids menu include:

  • Burger chain Meatheads offers a Jr. Turkey Burger on its Junior Menu. The meal comes with a choice of fries, applesauce or carrots, and a small fountain drink, milk or apple juice.
  • Zinburger, another burger chain, also offers a Turkey Burger on its kids menu. Sides include a choice of hand-cut fries, sweet potato fries or a ranch salad.
  • Ruby’s Diner, a chain serving up classic American food, offers a Kid-Sized Turkey Burger that comes with a choice of trans-fat free french fries, apple slices or applesauce.

Operators can also offer lighter sandwiches that feature turkey.  At the Green Mill Restaurant and Bar in St. Paul, Minn., kids can enjoy a Turkey, Cheese and Lettuce Pita. And at Hannah’s Bretzel, a fast-casual dining chain in Chicago, kids can order the Captain Turkey sandwich, served with a choice of an organic gala apple, chips or almonds.

In addition to making healthy protein swaps, operators can also change up the sides they offer. Instead of french fries, for example, restaurants can serve fried zucchini strips or crunchy veggie straws. And for drinks, operators should ditch high-sugar sodas in favor of fresh-squeezed fruit juices, sparkling water or milk (chocolate or plain).

Updating the kids menu to include leaner protein, vegetables and less sugar—all while still appealing to kids—is easy. With familiar formats and small tweaks, operators can cater to millennial parents’ preferences, all while keeping kids happy.

This post is sponsored by Butterball Foodservice

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