Cotton Candy

When food vendors prepare the menu of items that they’ll be selling to customers, they take many factors into consideration.  How difficult will the food be to hold and eat?  What utensils will be required?  Will there be seating areas where customers can spread out their meal?  Can everything be prepared at a steady pace with consistent results?  These are all very important questions that each professional concessionaire must consider.  There’s also one other factor that has to be considered.

The Overlooked Customer

Imagine a typical customer at a recent vending occasion.  Maybe you were selling sandwiches during a lunch rush or sweet treats during a local carnival.  Most food vendors will think of an adult and yes, adults will usually be the ones handing you their money.  However, it’s children that will influence an adult’s decision about which food to purchase.  Families with children will make up a significant number of the total attendees at any event.  Certain events, such as youth sporting events, will be almost entirely attended by people with children.  Directly and indirectly, children make up a huge percentage of your potential sales.  In a very real sense, you can’t afford to overlook them. 

What do Kids Want?

Marketers and sales professionals have long known that appealing to kids was key.  Children hold more influence over their parents than marketers can and parents are very willing to listen to their youngsters.  So it just makes good business sense to create menu items that appeal to kids but there are other reasons to create menu items with them in mind.

Even the biggest, most colorful festival can be boring to kids if there’s nothing for them to do.  Many events are geared towards adults; parents will naturally bring their children with them, but the event may not have a lot for kids to do once they’re there.  Developing a kids menu and other kid-friendly treats is the perfect way to include them in the fun, too.  The answer to the age-old marketing question of what kids want is easy.  Kids want to be included.

Food for Children – and Their Parents

So what kinds of food should you feature on your regular menu if you’re going to appeal to children?  Even though it’s the child who selects the food it’s their parent who will allow them to have it.  Thus you have to feature food items that kids will want but also that parents will feel good about buying.

Parents want to feel certain that the food they purchase will be something that their child will enjoy eating, that will be satisfying, and that won’t require a lot of management.  Simple foods that can be held such as hot dogs, hamburgers, and simple sandwiches are good choices.  Sweet treats such as snow cones, soft drinks, and milkshakes are also good.  Even small children can enjoy these things without much difficulty.  Further, these snacks can be purchased inexpensively, so it’s possible for a while family to share a number of the same items without anyone having to share. 

Something Just for Kids

Is it necessary to create a separate kids’ menu?  Some food vendors would say it’s absolutely necessary while others would say it’s a waste of time.  You can discover the answer to this question for yourself when you start asking if a kids’ menu is necessary for your business.

Kids’ menus offer a limited selection of meal options in smaller portions at lower prices.  This menu is comprised of foods that kids are already familiar with.  This familiarity is important especially when ordering at restaurants that serve unfamiliar or complex dishes.  Children under twelve are especially sensitive to tastes and textures, so giving them something with which they’re already familiar makes the dining experience a more pleasant one for everyone.

The mobile kitchen is a very different environment from the restaurant kitchen.  Mobile kitchens have fewer appliances and less space; the menu has to be absolutely streamlined.  Most mobile concessionaires have to plan very carefully before they add a new item to their menu.  It may not be possible to add new things to your lineup at this time.  Instead of changing your whole menu, consider creating “child size” portions of the things you already have.  Drinks, french fries, snow cones, ice cream cones, popcorn, and many more foods can be easily portioned into sizes that are more appropriate for the appetite of your youngest customers.

Never forget that children are some of your best customers.  You need to be mindful of their tastes and preferences, as well as of their parent’s desire to accommodate those preferences.  A little creative thinking will open up new avenues of sales success.