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Five Strategies to Invigorate Kids' Menus

Kids today are much smarter and have better palates then those who came before them. You need a smart strategy to reach them.

It's Easy to Get Caught in the trap of dumbing down food offers to appease children. But to capture the growing kids' market, you'll need to be as innovative with kids' menus as you are with your regular menu. Here are five strategies to consider when targeting family dining, according to Stephen Goldman of The Culinary Edge:

  1. Grown-Up Palates

    As children are exposed to more sophisticated flavors, adult flavors are trickling down to the children's menu. What signature items of yours can you adapt in a smaller portion or in a more toned-down way?

  2. Healthy and Wholesome

    Ask any parent their top consideration in purchasing snacks and meals for their children and wholesomeness, health and convenience are usually high on the list. How wholesome are the offerings on your kids' menu? Where can produce fit in? Where can you grill or roast instead of deep-fry?

  3. Family Time

    With less leisure time to spend together, families seek out experiences they can enjoy as a group while satisfying everyone's individual needs. The kids' menu doesn't have to be relegated to the last page in the corner of a menu. Try offering plentiful sampler plates designed for family sharing and intergenerational appeal.

  4. Friendly Spaces

    How are you speaking to kids on your menu, in your décor and in the overall experience? You don't have to add big plastic furniture to be in tune with younger diners. Work on creating a home-away-from-home setting that offers a colorful, engaging place.

  5. Global Tastes

    Spaghetti, pizza and tacos remain high on the kid-craveables list, but are hardly considered ethnic cuisine any longer. Today's children develop a taste for international foods from an early age, and menus are starting to reflect and encourage that. Children may be picky eaters, but they also love adventure and appreciate creativity within familiar boundaries, like sesame chicken or vegetable tempura served with rice and a salad.

Stephen Goldman is a chef and principal of The Culinary Edge, a San Francisco-based culinary development firm. He can be reached at [email protected]

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