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Secret kids menus

I have the privilege of living in Asheville, NC, a city that is heavy on good food and is also super kid friendly...handy as I have a two year old daughter who is almost always with me when dining out.
My husband and I are both pretty adventurous eaters and will try anything at least once. As a result, we often want to go to new places. Being that my girl is only 2, and picky like toddlers are inclined to be, I always look online at menus before deciding where we're going to eat.
Mysteriously, I've noticed a trend about kids menus...generally, most restaurants have them...and more often than not, they are completely unmentioned until you arrive, with your kid in tow.
I don't get it. I just don't. Anyone who has a young kid is going to be curious as to what they might offer for a small fry. It's worth mentioning, my daughter is not too bad about trying new stuff, this is not a rant about wanting chicken strips available everywhere we go. I'm looking for small, reasonably priced kid sized portions. I could order her the fancy chicken, sure. But she's two, and if she doesn't feel like having her $18 entree, well, it sucks.
I guess what I'm wondering is: if you have a kids menu, why wouldn't you mention it on your website? Is it a deterrent to try and keep people with kids away? I've found that one of the best ways to go to a decent restaurant with a little impatient child is to have a game plan before arriving. When you go to the trouble of searching for menus beforehand and can't find anything that seems like it will work for your family, it makes you question whether you should go at all. Is it just here that this happens? Why wouldn't a restaurant want to advertise their kids menu?

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  1. I think the answer is that while some restaurants thrive on being family oriented, other aren't. The profit margin on a kids menu may not be enough to make up for what a screaming kid could do to the ambience of the restaurant. So unless your concept is to be family friendly, why would you encourage the presence of kids?

    When I went to restaurant school, the instructor, who was a veteran owner and manager of three-star places, was asked by a student about kids in restaurants. His answer was blunt: "Kids don't belong in restaurants. That's what babysitters are for."

    1 Reply
    1. re: nocharge

      When I went to restaurant school, the instructor, who was a veteran owner and manager of three-star places, was asked by a student about kids in restaurants. His answer was blunt: "Kids don't belong in restaurants. That's what babysitters are for."

      You had a very wise and sage instructor. Lucky you.

    2. I'd call whatever place you had in mind and ask...save yourself frustration by being proactive

      1. I have to agree with nocharge, and the school instructor.
        Why would a decent restaurant encourage people to bring a toddler who, odds are, going to be a problem or at the very least a distraction to everyone?
        I guess I just don't understand people who think a toddler wants to go to a restaurant. Get a babysitter, take a break, the child will love you for it.

        1. "a little impatient child"

          Your words, not mine. You might have answered your own question.

          1. Ok, well, here's the thing. I get that toddlers aren't always great in restaurants and I certainly take her current mood into account when we are considering going out to eat. The thing is, these are often times, restaurants that are totally casual and kid friendly. And their kids menu is totally unadvertised. For example, we went to lunch today at a place that is essentially a burrito joint. You order at the counter and then go sit at a table and wait for your name to be called. We stood in line, perusing the menu, and only until we got to the cashier to place our order were we told verbally that they have a kids menu available.
            The question here is not "does a toddler belong in a restaurant?" The question is, if you've got options for children, your kitchen clearly knows what they are and how to prepare them, why not make that information available to the people who actually care and have kids.
            Why would it be a secret?

            4 Replies
            1. re: Faraway11

              If a restaurant tries to be child friendly and has the rest of the menu online, I don't see why it couldn't have the kids menu online as well. And many such restaurants do, e.g.,

              On the other hand, a restaurant that is not child friendly might not want to advertise a kids menu online for fear of attracting more kids than it would like. But if someone comes in with a kid anyway, why not have a kids menu up your sleeve if it can help keep the kid happy and well behaved,

              1. re: Faraway11

                They would rather you order a full sized $8 burrito and go home with leftovers than have you spend $3 on a kids burrito.
                FYI, Chipotle has a "secret" kids menu item- you can order just one taco. (A regular order has three)

                1. re: Ttrockwood

                  I think you just nailed it. We've been to so many places recently that have a kid menu, but there's no way to find out about it unless someone tells you. I guess I was looking for some insight into why it wouldn't just be available information. And duh, per usual, I'm sure it just comes down to money. Why spend $3 when you could spend $10. Thanks!

                  1. re: Faraway11

                    "there's no way to find out about it unless someone tells you."

                    Sure there is....ASK.

                    My wife and I were never embarrassed to ask f there was a kids menu when we had our little girls dining with us (all those years ago), and in those days there were few restaurant websites. Remember ads in the Yellow Pages?

              2. Asheville is easily the most child-friendly dining city I've ever seen. We're there a few days every summer with the Pup, starting when she was maybe 7. Doc Chey's was my favorite restaurant that summer, not because the food was so good, but because the children's menu consisted of half-sized portions of the adult menu. That is just about the smartest thing I've seen. Every year since then we've been going to Curate and I regularly see other kids there with their families. Last summer, Seven Sows won the Pup's adulation.

                I don't know what to tell you. We're now at a point where the kid can mostly finish an adult serving but we regularly dealt with the leftovers for years. The truth is that some restaurants simply don't want children, others don't mind but it doesn't occur to them how to deal with kids logically.
                At age 2, ordering apps can be a good way to go. Also, sharing from your own plate is an excellent, risk-free way to expose your child to new tastes.

                A good restaurant with a considerate staff will try to accommodate you to the best of their ability. A restaurant doesn't have be known as either child-friendly or child-unfriendly. They simply have to be patron-friendly.

                14 Replies
                1. re: rockycat

                  "A restaurant doesn't have be known as either child-friendly or child-unfriendly. They simply have to be patron-friendly."

                  I totally disagree except for the part that restaurants should be patron-friendly. But setting the expectations right is probably to the benefit of both the patron and the restaurant. Is it a seafood place or a steakhouse?

                  Below is Yelp's feature list for Gary Danko in San Francisco, including an entry about kids.

                  Takes Reservations Yes
                  Delivery No
                  Take-out No
                  Accepts Credit Cards Yes
                  Good For Dinner
                  Parking Valet
                  Wheelchair Accessible Yes
                  Good for Kids No
                  Good for Groups No
                  Attire Dressy
                  Ambience Classy, Upscale
                  Noise Level Average
                  Alcohol Full Bar
                  Outdoor Seating No
                  Wi-Fi No
                  Has TV No
                  Waiter Service Yes
                  Caters No

                  1. re: nocharge

                    A) The mods have already stripped this thread of many posts that talked about nothing but why children don't belong in restaurants. I have a lot to say on that topic but this is neither the time nor the place.

                    B) Since when does anyone take Yelp seriously for anything more than finding an address or getting a few giggles?

                    1. re: rockycat

                      Those Yelp items are not Yelp reviews. Just basic restaurant information similar to what you can find on other websites like OpenTable. Why would that make you giggle?

                      1. re: nocharge

                        Yelp reviews are many times quite laughable and are often good for a much need chuckle. I don't tend to take much anything about Yelp seriously, other than the business' address and phone number. That would include the information you cut and pasted. That information is opinion rather than fact and it is opinion that my personal experience has often contradicted.

                        1. re: rockycat

                          So you think that whether a restaurant has Wifi or television screens or a full bar is based on the opinions of Yelp reviewers? Really?

                      2. re: rockycat

                        Who takes Yelp seriously? Plenty of people since it has a $4.5 billion market cap. That's a lot to pay for addresses and giggles. What's Chowhound worth? Nothing close to that I fear though I much prefer CH to Yelp.

                        1. re: Bkeats

                          I'm not taking Yelp too seriously when it comes to reviews. But there is basic information about the restaurant that possibly is not based on the opinions of reviewers, but has been collected in cooperation with the restaurant. What are your address and your hours? Do you have wifi? Do you really think that that kind of stuff resolves downs to reviews by individual cluelessYelpers?

                          CH may have less clueless people writing opinions, but when it comes to basic restaurant information, it lags a lot of other sources.

                          1. re: nocharge

                            I have seen too many "the sushi was raw" type comments on yelp. Also too many restaurants either comp top yelp reviewers, or hold free tasting events for them, making some reviews suspect.

                            As far as market cap goes, using that reasoning Budweiser must be the best beer around.

                          2. re: Bkeats

                            So high market capitalization automatically means a high quality product? I must have missed that class in B-school.

                            1. re: rockycat

                              No, its just means someone is taking them seriously. B-school should have taught you that a $4.5 billion market cap reflects something.

                              1. re: Bkeats

                                Yup. It reflects that PT Barnum was correct.

                                1. re: rockycat

                                  So who is the sucker? The guy who bought the IPO at $15 with the stock now trading at $65 and the guy who stands on the sideline and says you can't take Yelp seriously? I remember the same arguments about Google. The long made his money and can move on. What did you do? Short it? Perhaps in the long run you are correct, but it will cost you a lot to prove that you are right in the markets if you can survive. Remember what Keynes said. The shorts have taken it, please pardon the pun, in the shorts on this one.

                                  1. re: Bkeats

                                    You need to distinguish between the quality of the investment and the quality of the product. There is a lot of crap out there that has made tons of money and many very successful businesses that sell crap as their business model. And while you need to take Yelp seriously as a investment does not mean that the reviews need to be taken seriously.

                                    By your logic Bud Light is the best beer in the US because it is the no 1 selling beer.

                                    1. re: chazzer

                                      No, that's not my argument at all. Please read upthread. The initial statement statement I was responding was that no one could take Yelp seriously other than for addresses or giggles. I was merely pointing out that there are many who take Yelp very seriously. More so than CH. But hey, what do I know? Those who totally discount Yelp and other lesser quality purveyors of advice/food/beer because they appeal to the masses are perfectly free to do so. If that's how you think about Yelp or Bud (InBev), your loss, my gain. BUD and YELP have done quite nicely shilling to the masses. Rewarded their investors too.

                                      ETA: I don't disagree that most Yelp reviews are not worth the bits they take up but that's not to say that CH is the be and end all for food related info either. There's a place I go to regularly for vacations and I can tell you the food related info on the CH regional board is for shit. I go to another even more specialized site to figure out what's going on. Yelp and CH have their relative merits. To completely discount either is a mistake. That was my point. That's what I learned in A-School. ;)

                    2. Are this traditional printed kids' menus of the chicken strips/hamburger mac and cheese variety, or is it more a case of if you ask, they'll offer provide a small portion of a regular dish at a lower cost?

                      In the first case it does seem odd - if a restaurant has gone to the effort to design a special kids' selection and printed out a menu, you'd think they would advertise it. But in the second case, I can see logic behind that. One possibility is that by advertising that they provide cheaper smaller portions of their regular menu, they risk seriously affect their profits, given the typical size of US restaurant portions and the ratio of food costs to other operating. Another possibility is that they aren't particularly interested in attracting the families with small kids demographics, but once you're actually inside the restaurant with the kid, they'll accommodate you.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                        Yes. This. I hadn't thought of this, but this. Whether the restaurant wants kids there or wants to appear as kid friendly aside, portion sizes are often too big for me, and I would order off the kids menu if it were just smaller portions. There's a bbq joint here in my town - our order is always the same. I get the 3 bones of ribs, (not on the kids menu but the smallest option for ribs) which comes with a mound of fries and another side, and the hubs gets the kids pulled pork shooter (it's a slider) which also comes with a mound of fries. They know it's for us, we tip generously for takeout, and everyone is happy. But not every restaurant could stay alive with people ordering so modestly. So when you factor that in with them having to consider which scenario gives them more business - giving the appearance of not being kid-friendly by hiding the kids menu, therefore bringing the business of lots of kidless folks, or appearing to be family-friendly and gaining familes but foregoing some of that kidless clientele? Probably the former is a better financial bet.

                      2. if she's 2, why not let he eat off your plates? she can't be eating much food yet, so even a kiddie portion is likely to be overkill. that's what we did for the longest time in NYC and my now 6 year old grew up eating some damn good food... he was always partial to the shrimp and grits for brunch at Locanda Verde. It wasn't until he was 3 and one day, he somehow put down 90% of a shake shack burger that I realized we might be ready for his own plate.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: FattyDumplin

                          What Fatty said. At two, we didn't order separate meals for the tykes. Would have been a waste of food. An app was plenty. I still remember when eldest son polished of an entire plate of clams casino at our favorite local Italian place. He was so proud of having finished it by himself.

                          I actually prefer to stay away from places that have kid's menus. If you are going to eat food from the main menu, why wouldn't you want your kids to eat the same food?

                          1. re: Bkeats

                            My 2 year old can out eat me! We use it as a chance to order a 3rd option off the menu and hope half of it will survive for our leftovers. She usually wants to try some of our food too. Protect thy shrimp at all costs!

                            Many of the places we go to that don't have a "kids menu" we order her an appetizer for her main, or many places are good with doing a half portion of a main, i e a lunch portion for dinner service, and we are charged the lunch price.

                          2. re: FattyDumplin

                            I agree, ask for an extra plate and share, order apps as needed.

                          3. i honestly think its just an intentional oversight, in that you aren't genearlly going to make a decision on a restaurant based on whether they have a kids menu or whether the kids menu looks good. Most people probably just want to see the adult menu, and if it looks good, then the kids are going. From that perspective, not really any need to have the kids menu. I don't think its to make you order a full size item becauase most such restaurants, once you go and they see the kid, quickly include the kids menu as you go to the table.

                            1. If we are planning on going out to eat, I just like to see what they have available, the full menu of options...including the kids menu. There are many occasions where she ends up with an appetizer or a side or just shares with us. And on occasion, the best choice has come from the kids menu.
                              I was originally trying to figure out why they wouldn't mention their kids options on their website. I mean, are there really people who won't go someplace based on the fact that they offer food for children? I hope not!
                              It seems like the perfect place to advertise to the parents who are trying to ensure that they can get in and out in a timely fashion. No matter how well behaved my daughter is, she's still a toddler and can be unpredictable, that's just how children are. I don't want to ruin anyone's dinner by bringing her to a restaurant, but there also doesn't seem to be any way that she can remain locked in our house until she's old enough to be good, all the time. What age is that anyway? 30 or so?
                              I don't want to dwell on some of the snarkier replies in this post, but seriously, I'm not about to pay $40 for a babysitter so my husband and I can eat a burrito.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Faraway11

                                > I mean, are there really people who won't go someplace based on the fact that they offer food for children?

                                Yes, and I am one of them. To me, the very existence of a kids' menu--and even more so, the publicizing of said menu on the restaurant's website--implies that the restaurant encourages people to bring small children. That's generally not a place where I will want to eat, unless I am going out for pizza or something similar.

                                1. re: travelmad478

                                  I don't agree 100% with your feelings but I think this is the explanation. Marketing to parents is just not a priority and might even be something some places want to avoid. OP I think you are making the mistake of thinking what is helpful and important to you is also the same for others, and that just isn't the case. In a few short years you won't be looking for kids' menus on websites either.

                                2. re: Faraway11

                                  Yes, there are many people who avoid places that publicize "children's menu" like the plague. I'm another one. I like children - in limited doses. But coming off a stressful workday, at the end of a rough week - looking to have a cocktail, a quiet dinner and unwind, and being too tired (or fed up) to cook, i will seek out establishments likely to have few (if any) children.

                                  Many are perfectly well-behaved (and more so than some adults), but I just don't want to play Russian Roulette with my peaceful evening.

                                3. In my opinion most places catering to the 2 year old demographic have very noticeable kids menu, generally the meal is called a "Happy Meal".

                                  Other than that I would say most restaurants appeal to those who pay the bill, so kids menu's are a bit of an after thought.