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Creating a Kids' Menu

Kids' drawings on restaurant wall The majority of restaurants choose to create a separate menu for children. For younger children, a kids’ menu is essential. Kids ages three to eight will often prefer to have their own menu, and 90% of parents with children this age say that kids’ menus are an important consideration when choosing a restaurant.1 However, keep in mind that older children might want to order small portions off of the adult menu, so you should always provide them with this option.

Designing a Menu for Children

When creating a kids’ menu, you should follow the general guidelines for menu design, making the menu clear, uncluttered and enticing. However, there are a few specific things to do as you develop a kids’ menu:

Provide real kids’ menus.

While a paper placemat menu and crayons are great tools for distracting toddlers, kids who are at least five years old are more likely to influence their parents’ decision-making, and they want real menus. Consider offering placemat-type menus to the younger children and “real” folding menus to the older ones in addition to placemats.

Avoid condescension.

Do not label menu items with diminuitive names, like “kiddy” or “pee wee.” Kids, especially the older ones, want to be treated like adults, and they may not want to order off a menu that calls them “kiddies” and seems to trivialize their importance.

Use color and pictures.

While striking imagery is important on any menu, it is especially essential for a kids’ menu. Children are attracted to color, and since many of them are too young to read well, photos of the menu items can empower them to order by themselves without the help of an adult. If you want to avoid the added expense of print color menus for the kids, give them crayons and black and white paper menus that they can color themselves.

Include games and puzzles.

The more distractions you can give to children, the more relaxed their parents will be. Provide kids’ menu puzzles and games for different age groups. If you provide placemats or one-time use paper menus, include mazes, word searches, crossword puzzles, fill-in-the-blanks and number puzzles. For reusable “real” kids’ menus, you can incorporate “find the hidden object” puzzles and optical illusions.

Choosing Kids’ Menu Items

 If you have decided to attract families to your restaurant by developing a separate kids’ menu, make sure the menu items are something that both kids and parents would be happy with. Typically, “children’s cuisine” consists of the least healthful of foods: fries, burgers, pizza, hot dogs and chicken fingers. Even at a Chinese or Mexican restaurant, where they do not really belong, you find these same items on the children’s menu. You may want to include traditional “kid’s cuisine” on your kids’ menu, but also consider offering a broader range of options.

Offer some healthy options.

Creating a healthy kids’ menu will make parents happy. The majority of kids’ menus offer the same stereotypical fried dishes. Studies show that this is having a negative impact on children’s health.2 Parents are beginning to realize this and are watching their kids’ diet more closely. Many chain restaurants are already offering healthy options to kids. McDonald’s offers apple dippers and milk or juice in place of fries and soda, while Chili’s offers grilled chicken meals and such healthful sides as steamed broccoli and mandarin oranges.

Consider offering some of the following items:

  • Grilled meats and veggies
  • Fruit and fruit cups
  • Baked beans
  • Steamed veggies
  • Baked potatoes
  • Healthy ethnic foods, like spinach enchiladas or chicken stir-fry
Pricing the Kids’ Menu

In general, the pricing for the kids’ menu should be anywhere from one-half to two-thirds the cost of regular adult menu items. There are also some other creative ways you could consider pricing the menu. Some restaurants that offer buffets have found success with weighing children and multiplying by about five cents to determine how much they will be charged for the buffet. The kids actually enjoy the fun experience of being “weighed in,” although if you choose to do this, make sure to include an age limit. Otherwise, your kids’ menu should follow the general guidelines for pricing menu items. » Learn More

Offering a separate menu for children is a great way for kids to feel special, but remember, the parents also see the kids’ menu. It is important to offer a design, pricing and menu items that please both young and old. In addition to your kids’ menu, if you want to focus on attracting families, you should also be sure that your atmosphere and promotions are family-oriented. » Learn More


1 “Technomic Sheds New Light on Kids’ Menus,” Business Wire (2007) <http://www.allbusiness.com/services/business-services/3963361-1.html> (accessed Wednesday, November 19, 2008).
2 Brooke Barrier, “Kids who often dine out at risk for health problems, group warns,” Nation’s Restaurant News 40, no. 3 (2006): 16.

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