Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Look At Dining Menus for Little Ones

A few weeks ago, I was watching my niece here at my house for a few days in a row while my brother and sister in law were visiting Nashville.  So, of course, that meant I was in charge of all aspects of my niece's care...which included feeding her.

Now, I did often fed her traditional "kid friendly" foods...mac and cheese, pizza, applesauce and cereal...but my niece also likes to eat some stranger choices.  She'll eat olives, she liked celery, and the girl will even eat lemons.

All this got me to thinking about the food options for kids that are available at Walt Disney World.

Now I've been known to eat a kids meal at WDW occasionally.  A lot of times kids meals offer me more than an adult meal does.  It's often just the right size for my stomach--leaving room for a snack a little later in the day, I don't drink soda--but do drink milk--which is included in kids meals, and I like the prices too--often they are a few dollars cheaper, which my pocket book enjoys.

So with all that being said, I took a look at multiple different quick service restaurant menus.  (Thanks to, I must add.)  After studying them, there were a few things I liked and a few things I'd like to see some improvement on.

As I'd mentioned above, after watching my niece, I realized that not all kids are always in love with the standard burger, chicken nuggets, macaroni and pizza.  And by looking at the menus, in a lot of these restaurants, that's all they offer.

Yes, it's great that they have these options for those picky eaters...a lot of kids are picky ...even well into their teens.  But to assume that all kids are, is not fair.  And I really appreciate when a Disney Quick Service Restaurant offers something a little different.

A couple of places that offer things that are a little more unconventional are Flame Tree BBQ-offering a chicken drumstick.  (Yes, still chicken, but it's a grilled chicken and it's got a little seasoning on it.  This is one of my favorite meals to get!)  ABC Commissary does offer a Ham and Cheese Wrap, in addition to the traditional chicken nuggets and cheeseburger.  Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe has a mixed green salad with chicken as an option. 

It also seems like kids get some different choices at some of the World Showcase pavilions.  At the Yakitori House, they offer Teriyaki chicken with veggies and rice.  And at the new La Cantina de San Angel, they offer an empanada de queso (cheese empanada...which yes is only cheese, but still, something different for kids to try that's close to something they may already like.)

It's so great to see a good number of restaurants trying to switch it up and offer more to families.  Because every family is different..they are not all cookie cutter and don't always want cookie cutter meals.

But there are some places that could use some improvements.  First I would like to see more offerings for kids (well and adults too possibly, though I think they are getting a tad better with adult meals...what with things like the new designer Angus burgers they are creating and new designer hot dogs...still burgers and hot dogs, but at least they are different and a little more unique.)

My big issue is that many times on kids meal menus there are only 2 options.  (Occasionally some do have 3...but in other cases some restaurants only offer 1).  Really?  Only 2 options on average?!  That's really not a whole heck of a lot.  I know the goal is to keep costs down, but would it hurt so much to add at least 1 more option...and better yet, one more unique item for those kids who may not be such picky eaters.

One such restaurant that only has 1 offering is Toy Story Pizza Planet.  If you eat here with your kids, the only offering is a cheese pizza.  Now this is just fine for me, I only eat cheese myself...but why is there not another option for those kids who like to eat something with meat, like pepperoni?  Why only have cheese be the single option? 

The other larger issue I have with kids meal menus at WDW is when a restaurant is known for selling more unique items for adults and then offers the standard fare for kids.  One noticeable restaurant is Yak and Yeti at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  For those who aren't familiar, this is a restaurant that offers Asian dishes for adults...but their kid's menu...cheeseburger and chicken bites!  Why?!  For guests who choose to eat at the sit down restaurant portion, the kid's menu offers some Asian items...vegetable lo mein or an egg roll.  If these things can be offered inside, why are we not offering something along the same lines to guests with kids who choose to eat at the counter service restaurant?

Another place that totally removes it's particular delicacies from the menu for kids is the Tangerine Cafe in Morocco at Epcot.  Here the only options are a hamburger and chicken tenders.  Now, while this restaurant doesn't necessarily appeal to me and I'd guess probably wouldn't appeal to many kids...why not offer 1 additional meal for kids...a smaller version of something that is already served to adults?  That way, the restaurant doesn't have to make up a totally new dish and potentially waste a whole lot, but it still offers something unique for kids (and maybe even adults) who want to try Moroccan food.

One restaurant that does serve more traditional foods but still has a more unique menu for adults is Columbia Harbor House in the Magic Kingdom.  Here, the kids menu consists only of chicken nuggets, a mixed green salad with chicken, mac and cheese, and a PJ&J...but this restaurant is know for it's seafood (in addition to chicken).  Where is the seafood option?  I'd love to see something like fish sticks or fish nuggets or something here.  Or better yet, give kids the option of a child size portion of fried shrimp.  I loved fried shrimp as a kid...and I'm sure others do too!  Once again, an easy addition to the menu because it's something that's already offered on the adult version.

There is one restaurant that seems to do it's kids options perfectly and that is Sunshine Seasons at Epcot.  At this eatery, options include not only the traditional mac and cheese and PB&J, but also sweet and sour chicken, a mini sub sandwich, and a chicken leg with mashed potatoes.   This restaurant is perfect to me because it does offer unique options along with items for those who are more picky, PLUS it offers more than just 2 choices...matter of fact, this restaurant offers at least 5!

So, see, it can be done.  And it's definitely something I would like to see them continue with in the future.  They simply need to make the changes, most of them would be easy to do.

What do you think about the kid's meal offerings?  Do you like them?  Do you think they need more options?  Do you think they need more unique options?  Or is the standard fare really the way to go?  Make sure to let me know in the comments section!


Unknown said...

You'd be surprised.. we actually stopped to Tangerine Cafe for a snack for my 1 year old - got him 2 sides - hummus and olives. Plenty of food for $6 and he loved it..

but yeah, I agree. hamburgers and chicken nuggets are NOT kid friendly in my book!

Tricia Furman said...

The kids menus do need improvement. The lack of options is what usually does us in. There are several places that we haven't tried because one of our two kids wouldn't eat what's on the menu. I also think that the more unusual places should offer a couple more standard items for the picky kids and also a couple more adventurous dishes. Our next trip will by our 9 year old's last as a Disney kid so the following trip will be even more interesting.

Cassidy said...

Great post, Rikki!

I don't have kids or anything so I've never really noticed the kids menu, but you definitely have a point. I hope Disney is listening so that by the time I have kids, there are more worldy and unique options for the menu!

Cozyflier said...

Yes, agreed, the kids menus need improvement! We've been ordering adult meals and splitting it between kids for years because our kids eat more worldly things!!

Jessica @ Wanting Adventure said...

I never thought about it, but the kids menus really are limited. I usually order off those too, to save room for Mickey bars! Sunshine Seasons is the best, as you mentioned, for the variety. I wonder if parents with kids see these same problems.

Lisa Lin said...

I totally agree with the lack of choices. We usually stay for a week at a time and my children won't eat nuggets day after day. Or I should say that I don't want them eating nuggets/burgers/hot dogs every day.

I would love to see more fresh fruit and vegetable options, even if its just a banana, apple, or orange.