Consuming Thoughts

Plenty of ideas from the QSR, fast-casual playbooks are there for the stealing.

By  Amanda Baltazar, Freelance writer

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Healthy Kids’ Meals

There are changes afoot for children’s food, and the days of chicken nuggets and pizza may be numbered. In July, Taco Bell announced it was phasing out kids’ meals.

But for those that still offer them, there’s a rustling of change: Chick-fil-A now serves applesauce for its young diners, Subway has sliced apples and yogurt, and Burger King also dishes up apple slices.

“Kids are eating what their parents are eating now,” says Melissa Abbott, senior director of culinary insights for the The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash.

So, she says, the opportunity for convenience stores is in carrying adult food in smaller portions, such as servings of hummus or half-sandwiches.

“You can get your kid something that you feel good about,” she says.

Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar, Dallas, Texas, is looking at several components of its kids’ meals, adding new items to the children’s menu and reformulating existing items, according to Bill Hancox, vice president of food service.

The restaurant is promoting fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy while limiting unhealthy fats, sugars and sodium, while still making sure its kids’ meals have appeal and acceptance.

Moe’s Southwest Grill, Atlanta, has an entire section of its menu board that meets the guidelines established by the National Restaurant Association’s Kids Live Well program. These include an entrée having 600 calories or fewer, less than 35 percent of calories coming from fat and no more than 770 milligrams of sodium. The items include the Moo Moo Mr. Cow burrito and the Power Wagon taco.

The menu boards don’t detail all the nutritional information (though that’s on Moe’s website) “because parents know we’ve done all the work for them,” says chief marketing officer Paul Macaluso, “and they really appreciate that.”

Having cute names for the menu items also helps. “Kids get excited to just order that funny name,” he says.

Steal This Idea: Treat kids like little adults but make it fun: Dish up healthy adult food in small portions and give it a funny name. Your youngest customers will get a kick out of it.

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