Times have indeed changed. If we’d look a few years back, it would be hard to imagine restaurateurs taking extra time and effort to develop their kids’ menus.
But these days, as the American people continue to focus on their wellness and health–along with that of their children’s–the restaurant industry finds itself in continuous struggle in abiding by the rules, as the task of helping out modify the American children’s eating habits are placed on their shoulders.
Whilst before, restaurants are only supposed to prepare and sell any kind of food, now, part of their mission is to move kids away from their usual fare – those calorie-laden meals they’ve been offering in their menus and menu card holders over the years that are heavy in sugar, sodium and fats. Their aim now is to help parents and the government steer children toward more healthful, balanced eating habits.
Following the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign in 2010, a program that aims to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity in the country, the National Restaurant Association introduced its Kids LiveWell project. The Kids Livewell initiative is a program that allows participating restaurants to give parents and kids more extensive healthy menu options when they dine out. As of this writing, the number of participating restaurant chains and independents has grown to 68 brands with 20,000 locations.
Chains all over the country have retooled their kids’ meals to abide by the situated guidelines. McDonald’s, for one, has launched its ad campaign about nutritional awareness and kids’ meals last month, after re-organizing its Happy Meals which now include fewer French fries, low fat milk choices and apple slices.
Darden’s Restaurants was joined by Michelle Obama last year when it announced a reduction on the amount of sodium and calories on their menus and menu card holders, as well as their plan in providing a wider variety and more plentiful options for their children’s meals. The First Lady called the plan “a breakthrough moment.”
Others, like Au Bon Pain, Chili’s Grill and Bar, Burger King, Outback Steakhouse, Tony Roma’s, Chick Fil-A and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store have also revamped their kids’ meals and offered healthier options.
Children as food critics
Some chains, like Silver Diner in Rockville, Maryland, have taken one step further in developing their kids’ meals and went right to the source. It worked out a marketing promotion where kids themselves have a say on what they want—they invited diners aged 4 to 12 to act as food critics on new selections that they plan to add to their menu. And from there they successfully had their overhauled healthy, nutritious kids meals, straight from the children’s idea of what’s “healthy and delicious.”
Indeed, children’s healthy meals continue to be a serious topic in the industry, and restaurants all over, from the biggest chains down to the smallest independent operators, are encouraged to participate.