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.
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 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.