Kids' Menus Don't Budge Despite Obesity Concerns

Despite the rising concerns about childhood obesity, restaurant menus for children have not changed in recent years, according to a recent study.


Mintel Menu Insights has been tracking kids menus from 2005 until present, and are seeing the same foods repeated year after year.

According to the market researcher, chicken fingers steadily account for 10 percent of kids' menu items, followed by grilled cheese sandwiches, mac and cheese and burgers.

Only three in 10 parents say their children eat healthily at restaurants. However, Mintel says their survey shows kids will eat their fruits and veggies, with more than three in four kids saying they would eat items that include veggies and six in seven saying they would order items with fruit.

"Restaurants dabble in healthier menus for kids, but there's still significant work to be done," says Maria Caranfa, director of Mintel Menu Insights. "Health and obesity issues, the popularity of ethnic foods and increased media coverage are creating pressure for revamped kids' menus. Soon, health and menu variety will be the new standards in kids' dining."

Mintel called out a few recent innovation in kids' dining:

  • Bob Evans : grilled chicken strips with a fresh garden salad
  • Burger King : fresh apple fries
  • Elephant Bar Restaurant: tropical citrus salad with chicken

Although Mintel didn't mention them, there are other restaurants that are trying to be more ambitious with their kids' menus. Legal Sea Foods, for example, offers a kid-sized portion of its regular menu-grilled fish of the day, baked cod, and even lobster. Plus, fish-shaped ravioli and sides of grapes for non-seafood eaters.

Fruit sides are also on the menu at Brinker International's Chili's Grill, which offers mandarin oranges and pineapple as well as grilled chicken, and at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, which has cantaloupe wedges, to name just a few restaurants.

That trend hasn't been lost on Mintel. They said although french fries are still the most common side — offered with 66 percent of kids' menu items — fruits and vegetables have risen in popularity. About 43 percent of restaurants are now offering fruit sides and 39 percent are offering vegetables. About 18 percent of restaurants are offering rice and salad as a side on their kids' menus.

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