Two-fifths of consumers (40%) have a child who has ordered a kid’s breakfast item at a restaurant or other foodservice location in the past year. Unsurprisingly, the two generations with the highest percentages for this statement and most likely to have children at home are millennials (59%) and Gen Xers (53%). Since increasing numbers of millennials in particular are having children, numerous restaurants have been focusing efforts on revamping and expanding kids menus over recent years to draw in these parents. In fact, the number of kids breakfast items increased 8.2% over the last year, per Technomic’s MenuMonitor.
Kids Menus as Traffic Drivers
Consumers were asked to select attributes that matter to them when choosing a restaurant for dine-in occasions. A fifth of consumers say the availability of a kids menu is important when choosing a limited-service (20%) and full-service restaurant (23%). Kid friendliness is valued more by millennials than any other generation since this cohort is most likely to live with children age 12 or under.
A more interesting breakdown among millennials is the variation in opinion between the older and younger members of this age group. Some 36% of younger millennials (age 24- 31) compared to just 28% of older millennials (age 32-39) deem kids menus important at limited serves, whereas views reverse for full serves (44% of older millennials compared to just 33% of younger millennials). This indicates that parents may feel more comfortable taking kids to sit-down restaurants as they get older.
When asked to select only three attributes that are of utmost importance for their kids’ breakfast occasions at restaurants, parents confirm that vast differences exist among what kids want and what parents want for their kids. Both parents and kids agree that the most important attribute when it comes to kids breakfast occasions is appealing taste, which is table stakes. But delving further into follow-up responses, it is even more apparent that operators must walk a tightrope between the needs and desires of parents and kids.
Affordability (44%) and fresh ingredients (41%) round out the top three attributes that parents believe are most important for their child’s breakfast occasion at restaurants. Alternately, children place the highest importance on food they are familiar with and know they like (55%) and a wide variety of options (27%). Other clear bifurcations include the importance of better-for-you choices— higher among parents (29%) than kids (18%)—and the ability to customize, higher among kids (25%) compared to parents (13%).
We also asked parents to indicate how appealing their child considers a range of breakfast items. Breakfast starches lead the list with the majority of consumers indicating pancakes (90%), waffles (87%), doughnuts (84%) and French toast (84%) are appealing to their kids. Eggs round out the top five (83%), while other egg-based dishes—omelets (70%) and quiches (45%)—are rated slightly lower in appeal. Some parents also said various handhelds like breakfast sandwiches (79%), muffins (77%) and bagels (73%) are tempting offerings for their children.
Some Tips to Appeal to Kids & Parents Alike
Offer better-for-you, build-your-own options, such as a yogurt bar with choices like nuts, jelly and fruit mix-ins.
Serve a choice of eggs with fresh vegetables mixed into an omelet or served alongside.
Sweeten toast or waffles with lower sugar levels and natural fruit spreads or honey.
A Balancing Act
As previously noted, the preferences of parents and kids vary — often significantly. Operators are placed in a tough position of pleasing both generations’ preferences when creating kids menus. Here are two issues operators face and tips for fashioning a balanced kids breakfast menu.
Better for You vs. Indulgent
77% of parents wish restaurants would offer healthier food on their kids breakfast menu for their child.
The top four most appealing breakfast items to kids— pancakes, waffles, doughnuts and French toast— are indulgent.
Operator Tip: Appeal to parents and kids alike by adding nutritious components to kids’ favorite foods. This could include using whole wheat, whole grains, seeds or nuts in breakfast starches, or promoting organic, natural and fresh aspects of some of these comfort foods.
On the Menu: The Egg & I Breakfast & Lunch’s The Ali Baba wheat pancake for kids 10 and under includes choices of both better-for-you and indulgent toppings.
Familiar Vs. New
72% of parents would like for their child to try new breakfast items at restaurants.
63% of parents say their child prefers the same breakfast items during every restaurant occasion.
Operator Tip: Introduce unfamiliar dishes to kids by featuring ingredients and brands that kids know and like.
On the Menu: First Watch’s kids Fresh Fruit Crepe is topped with low-fat, organic strawberry yogurt and cinnamon sugar.
3 Areas Of Opportunity For Kids Menus
Variety in Different Forms
Both kids and parents want variety on kids breakfast menus. That variety can come in the form of multiple breakfast offerings, various portion sizes, a condiment and sauce bar, customizability and more. Knowing which options best appeal to your guests (and best work for each restaurant operationally) is key to your business
Highlight Better for You When Possible
Most kids don’t think about or even know what foods are better for you and why it matters to their diet. However, parents do know the importance of proper nutrition and many want to see operators insert healthful ingredients and dishes on their kids breakfast menus. Parents will appreciate operators helping to educate their children on the importance of nutrition at an early age.
Create an Experience
When dining out for breakfast, kids want to be entertained and parents often appreciate fun distractions that help kids enjoy their food. Operators should think outside of the box to excite kids in the morning beyond coloring placemats. Offering build-your-own fare is one way, but another is to use vivid colors with food, like a bright blueberry syrup atop pancakes or pink whipped topping over waffles. Another way to do this is by adding an indulgent twist to familiar foods. A good example of this is the Bacon Pancake Sticks recipe featured in this brief.