Define Dining for Kids

In the 1960s US, the average diameter of a dinner plate was approximately 25cm.

Define Dining for Kids

Now days, figure sits at nearly 31cm. It’s easy to bash the Americans and their seeming love affair with junk food and portion sizes that has resulted in an epidemic of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. But the demographic taking the brunt are children, and not just American children – this is already a global issue.

Kiddie meals

To change the way kids eat starts with a change in perception. When you think of kiddie meals it’s about the toy or it’s about whatever they’ll eat with the least fussing involved, but to approach mealtimes as kids’ dining changes the whole ball game.

And this is where quick serve restaurants (QSRs) have their part to play in changing perceptions. When it comes to kiddie meals, two of the biggest challenges facing QSR chains today are dealing with a young customer base that is increasingly suffering from obesity and poor nutrition, and the need to constantly keep up with changing tastes.

The challenge

The question to ask about changing perceptions then is, “What distinguishes eating from dining?” after all, kids aren’t exactly renowned for their refined palates. It first starts with consuming a sensible amount of food. Think back to the opening line of plate sizes.

This means it’s a QSR responsibility to play a greater part in portion sizes as well as selecting packing material that reflects a more modest approach. Fundamentally, ‘dining’ suggests a balanced meal. This should mean an assortment of food types that include proteins, vegetables, grains, fats, carbohydrates and fruit. Substituting fats, salt and artificial sweetners with healthier alternatives or in far smaller quantities is key in overhauling menu options.

Attracting and holding Millennials

Times have changed significantly, and when it comes to Millennials (those aged between 16 and 30) and their dining requirements, this means a ‘flavour adventure’ and exposure to more worldly tastes. This means more ethnically diverse offerings from fruits, nuts and whole grains of Mediterranean cuisine, to the healthy vegetables and preparation of Asian cuisine.

One of the most significant shifts to be made is in understanding that ‘dining’ is both parent- and child-friendly. Giving parents the option to lead by example can teach children how to choose healthier options instead of eating for the moment. That means menu options but be available to both adults and children, as well as palatable to both adults and children.

It’s about menu and environment

Ultimately though, changing kids’ tastes and gaining their loyalty in dining should be through fun and creating an environment, experience or platform that makes healthier food choices a genuinely fun experience that fosters appreciation for the flavours going into their mouths.

With child customers food needs fickle and superficial, if quick meals remain a quick fix, the chances of keeping a young customer for life are very slim.

Tracy Lee Nicol
About the Author
Tracy-Lee Nicol is the managing editor of Franchise Zone Magazine and deputy editor of Entrepreneur Magazine. She studied her Masters degree in Art History and Visual Culture at Rhodes University and spent the next two years working and travelling in Asia. Her love of people, business and teaching is reflected in telling the stories of entrepreneurs, franchisees and franchisors, inspiring others to take the leap to being their own boss and bringing about positive change in South Africa.

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