As described in a New York Times article, Nicola Marzovilla of the restaurant I Trulli in New York City swears he will never offer a children’s menu. He points out that children’s menu are often inferior to the regular menu, since the menu often has items that are easy to make and unhealthy. Instead, he might offer smaller portions of some of the regular items on his menu. This way, the child would have exposure to new food items, rather than the typical chicken fingers, and still have a nutritious meal. In The Gazette, a restaurant owner points out that when parents do take their children out at a high-end restaurant, children often expect to eat like adults, so a children’s menu is not necessary.
On the other side, parents dining with their children are already worried about causing a scene when they go out. The Dallas Observer points out that some restaurants tend to have children’s menus in order to avoid possible tantrums, which would ruin multiple guest experiences. Plus, if no children’s menu is offered, ordering would be a hassle.
In any case, there’s no hard and fast rule that says that children’s menu must be the typical children menu fare of chicken fingers and fries. One of the restaurants mentioned in the Dallas Observer article said that though they do not have a children’s menu, they do have child-friendly menu items such as flatbreads and pizza. Perhaps the children’s menu could just be a simplified version of the regular menu with a ready list of kid-friendly choices and smaller portions. This way, the child still has the experience of choosing what he or she wants from a menu during a special occasion dinner. However, if children aren’t a large demographic of the restaurant clientele, the effort of making an extra children’s menu is probably not worth the trouble, even if the menu choices are only slightly altered off of the regular menu. In those cases, the server could just recommend and upsell kid-friendly choices.