How Can We Make Takeout Menus Kid-Friendly
Written by Chef Colin Burslem, Culinary Director for Joseph Richard Group and Meal Ticket Brands
Picture this – a family enters a busy restaurant for supper, the room is loud, the wait is long, the kids are hungry, you forgot the iPads at home, and little Tommy all of a sudden decides he no longer likes chicken strips or hamburgers which is the only reason the family went there in the first place. Often dining out is a delightful experience but sometimes it turns into a scenario like this one. But with takeout, there are options that appeal to a younger crowd and you can dine in the comforts of your own home.
There’s an important difference between adult and kid diners. Where an adult might let a disappointment slide when unimpressed with their meal, a child will always be the most honest critic.
To keep kid-complaints to a minimum, it’s important that takeout menus actually consider their preferences. Here are my top tips for making takeout menus kid-friendly.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say that kids care about the appearance of their food. It doesn’t matter how delectable the chocolate cake is – if it looks unappetizing, kids won’t waste their time. And don’t waste your own time thinking that a nine-year-old will eat something a five-year-old won’t. Most kids are in agreement that food that looks gross is gross.
Keep It Simple
It’s safe to say that most kids don’t have adventurous pallets. And it’s important to respect this when we create their menus. An easy way to keep food simple is to keep it from being bold in flavour. This means that the food can be seasoned well, but never seasoned too much where it is spicy or overwhelmed by other flavours. You will also want to consider textures. Kids, like many adults, are often sensitive to unfamiliar textures. To appease the most straightforward critics, I suggest keeping textures simple and familiar. When it comes to packaging, ensure foods are separated into applicable packaging according to what is ordered. No kid wants their caesar salad warmed by their cheeseburger—in fact, no adult does either.
Don’t Neglect Health
Kids will typically choose french fries over brussels sprouts—this is a given. But this doesn’t mean taste preferences should come at the expense of health. It is important to ensure that there are always healthy offerings – not just standard fare like chicken strips & fries. There are effective ways to sneak in healthy foods and one of the easiest methods is by way of side orders. There’s no rule against including additional items like fruit or crudité. It is also possible to sneak whole grains and low-fat items into menus where possible. By doing this, you can appease both your parent guests and their discerning little ones.
Make Food Hot
One of the most common “back-to-the-kitchen” food scenarios is when a guest receives a cold dish. No one enjoys what was supposed to be a warm meal. Food should always be warm and this rule does not discriminate against children. Not to mention with takeout, the delivery time can cool down the product. Make kids’ food with the same effort that is put into adult meals.
Just like adults, kids want to enjoy aesthetically pleasing food (or any food that doesn’t look totally weird). Kids like simplicity. If their parents don’t serve them caviar or seriously spicy chicken wings for dinner—neither should you. Just because kids don’t, particularly love carrots, doesn’t mean you can’t work them into a meal in a fun way. Do your best to consider health where you can. And last but not least, serve food hot. Please.