The Kids’ Menu Evolution

Today we take it for granted that a good many restaurants will cater for our children in terms of palate choices and portion sizes, but has this always been the case? I’m sure if you think back to when you were a child, there didn’t seem to be that many eateries that encouraged visits with little ones, but in today’s modern society a growing number of restaurants are realising that if they want the parents to dine out, then they should cater for the children as well. So when did the idea of the kids’ menu begin?

For answers we turn to – their account of its evolution involves three things: wine, women and … no, not song, but science.

Wine: In the 1800s the majority of restaurants were in fact pubs, taverns or inns; and they favoured a drinking clientele over an eating one. Because of this, they never allowed children into their establishments, not to protect the children mind you – this was the time of the workhouse where half the inhabitants were made up of children and treated appallingly – but, because children interfered with a patron’s drinking capacity.

Women: At the turn of the century, the women’s movement gained momentum and women experienced more freedom – part of this was the simple act of being able to eat outside the home unchaperoned, without it being frowned upon. Women began to visit tearooms and department store dining halls, and where women go, children tend to follow. Big business soon realised that they were facing a largely untapped market and began to devise plans to attract that market – as a result, the first kid’s menus began to make their appearance. One of the earliest examples comes from 1916, from the department store, Marshall Fields in Chicago, which ran advertisements for their children’s menu in the local newspapers.

Science: Around the same time in the early 1900s, studies showed that children’s growing bodies needed different forms of sustenance to their adult counterparts. Unfortunately for the children, the suggested food was plain and bland – boiled potatoes, prunes, broiled meats, clear soups, and lots of bread and butter. While it may have been boring, it was at least healthy, but that changed somewhat in the 1950s when the chicken nugget was invented – fried food then became the norm on kids’ menus and it’s sadly what we still see most of today.

Having said that, there is a growing number of establishments that are trying to offer healthier options for little ones. The idea is to give them real food to eat while not straying too far from what they normally would find on the more traditional children’s menu; items like wholesome crumbed chicken pops or strips served with a side salad; Halaal fish cakes and baked French fries; or beef chipolatas served with mashed potato and mixed vegetables – all of which are available at N1. So, for the widest variety of high-quality wholesale meat, poultry, fish and wholesale frozen vegetables, call N1 today.