|Kids menu from a popular Mexican food chain, Chevy's.|
A lot goes into the engineering of menus, and many of them are carefully engineered with intricate marketing tools to draw more consumers to the restaurants.
Today, the majority of restaurants provide a kids' menu option typically for children under a certain age.
The age is most commonly 10 or 12. The most common traits of a kids menu include colorful pictures, very simple crossword puzzles and games, and offer very few choices, usually less than ten. Some kids menus offer as few as two entree choices! Menu items on the typical kids' menu are often written in very large print, and in very simple words. Kids' menus share at least one or more universal fried and fattening choices, hamburger, french fries, chicken strips, mac n' cheese, grilled cheese sandwich, and hot dogs- even at a Mexican or Chinese restaurant where such foods do not belong. What about these foods says "kids cuisine"? Frequently offering such foods limits a kid's chance to expand their horizon and try new things. Offering other options may help break a picky eating habit, or introduce new foods.
What exactly is a kid-friendly food? How are such things defined?
Such foods are unhealthy, and kids should enjoy the culture of the restaurant. Another popular trait of the kids' menu is that the entree choices are often labeled , "kiddie", "pee-wee", or "kids", "kid-sized", (ex: pee-wee pizza). Such titles are highly insulting and belittling and kids will not want to order off a menu that insults them. About 80% of kids 3 to 8 order from a kids menu and 54% of kids 8-12 do so as well. Kids like to have their own menu and order on their own, but this does not require a kids menu. Kids like to feel like adults, and want to order off the menu that everyone else orders from. In a way, kids are often pressured to order from such menus. Some restaurant hosts or waiters will force a child to order from a kids menu even against the child's will. Parents often pressure their kids as well. As many as 90% of parents with young children will simply not visit a restaurant simply because it does not offer a kids' menu.
Kids' menus simply make things inconvenient for kids and parents alike. Some children prefer to order from the adult menu, yet are presented with portions large enough to feed an entire family. Since many kids prefer to order from the adult menu, kids menus are a waste of paper. Some adults prefer smaller portions and and are simply not given the option. Some kids feel insulted when their dining experience is somewhat segregated because of their age. Kids menus create segregation and isolation, especially when the menus include games and puzzles. For one, children are being treated separately because of their age, and a kid who is occupied by a puzzle or game presented by the kids' menu misses out on family interaction and the point of a family meal goes out the window.
About 90% of full-service restaurants offer a kids' menu and about 75% of limited service restaurants offer a kids' menu as well.
Many fast food restaurants offer intricate, high quality toys in colorful meal packages. Within the toys offered at fast food restaurants, different toys are offered to different age groups. And a common kids' menu trait at a fast food restaurant is to have three separate kids' menus most often, "Under 3", "kids' menu", and the "big kid or junior menu." Why have kids' menus become such an essential component for the majority of restaurants? Marketing comes into huge consideration, as many of these menus are designed to be inviting and attractive to kids. Many restaurants try tons of fancy marketing tools to compensate for lack in food quality and lack in quality of service. Some resort to such just to conform and appeal to the average consumers.
If a restaurant has great food, great service, and a great location, they will not need to resort to such things to attract families. Its energy and quality will speak for itself. Everyone should be treated equally in their dining experiences.