Kids And Dogs Will Always
Go For The Steak
As you can see from the cover of this magazine, it’s our 8th annual Kids Issue, meaning we have devoted many years to covering the kids and family market. Both through our Kids Marketing Conference and our Best Kids Menu in America Contest, we, and hopefully you, have learned that kids are growing increasingly more sophisticated each year.
If you were at our recent Kids Conference, you would have heard Jasper White explain that kids often skip the corn dog on his menu at Jasper’s Summer Shack and order lobster. "If you put down dog food and a T-bone steak, the dog will take the steak. It’s the same with children."
I remembered this comment after reading a recent story in the New York Times titled "Dude, Where’s My Spice Grinder?" The story is about how the latest crop of college graduates have developed educated palates and know more about food and wine than any generation before them. Tom Saine, the v.p. of business development for Aramark, says what has happened over the last 10 years is a revolution.
"On some college campuses today, the students are far more cosmopolitan in their palate and taste interests than the faculty or staff," he said.
He’s right, of course, but the revolution began well below the college level. That’s apparent when you look at the entries that flood in for our Best Kids Menu in America Contest. Even Emeril couldn’t take the top prize in the Upscale Category, and he offers a "Kid’s Filet Mignon with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sauteed Haricots Verts and a Natural Reduction Sauce." Chicken fingers it ain’t.
Aramark, by the way, won in the School Category after taking over the foodservice responsibilities for Clear Creek Independent School District in League City, Texas. Aramark created 250 new and more sophisticated menu offerings, which led to a 27 percent increase in participation in the school lunch program and a top line revenues increase of 34 percent.
The Times article goes on to detail the growing interest in food and restaurants among college students. The student newspaper at the University of Chicago now has a food column; at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, students stage "Iron Chef" competitions; the University of Virginia has student dining clubs. Ten years ago students at the University of Alabama would have run from sushi. Now it’s a staple on the dining hall menu.
Sadie Stein, who writes the food column for the University of Chicago newspaper, says it’s no surprise that college dining halls have added display kitchens and students are demanding that foods they eat be local, seasonal and organic.
All of this bodes well for the restaurant industry. Kids love and understand food more than ever before, but, for the most part, they want you to prepare it for them. Let’s make no mistake about it: chicken fingers are still the number one favorite item on kids menus. But the tide is turning. Kids, little ones and big ones, are demanding better quality and more choices. Give them great food and a fun atmosphere to eat in, and you’ll rule the world.