While choosing the restaurant is often a family decision, kids are most often choosing their own meals when dining out. In fact, 78 percent of kids say they choose their own meals whether picking from the adult menu, or from the kids menu, according to a study done by Y-Pulse (ypulse.org) that surveyed 500 kids across the U.S.

The survey also revealed much about what kids are deciding to eat.  The majority of 8 and 9-year-olds prefer to order from the kids’ menu, while 10-year-olds are split pretty evenly on their preferences for kids or adult menus.  The vast majority of respondents 11 to 13 years old said they liked the food choices on the adult menu better than the ones on the kids’ menu.

Besides that, a majority of survey respondents (69 percent) viewed themselves as being more sophisticated than their ages might imply.  Most were between the ages of 10 and 13, and agreed with the statement that menus covered in cartoons, games, and puzzles were more appealing to kids younger than them.

Sharon Olson, executive director of Y-Pulse says, “We also heard kids say they look for higher quality foods that are healthier and that they like being able to customize their orders.”  Olson continued, “And a couple of things that came out in earlier surveys are still true today – kids love to eat at restaurants.”

The three places kids responding to the survey said they “loved” to eat were fast food restaurants, their own homes and restaurant chains with table service.  In particular when commenting about dining at home, kids said they liked “knowing what’s in the food,” that the food “tastes homemade” and the food is “always fresh.”  When dining at restaurants with table service, they were more likely to point out mature distinctions about the experience, saying things like, “it’s relaxing,” that they “liked being served” and liked “sitting down with family.”

Of all dining options asked about, the one with the greatest increase from 2010 to 2013 in the percentage of kids saying they “love it” was quick service restaurants.  In the 2010 survey, 48 percent of kids said they loved dining at quick service restaurants, while in 2013 that number jumped to 63 percent.

The survey also revealed:

  • The places where kids least like to eat
  • Dining preferences based upon age
  • Kids dining preferences when choosing between neighborhood restaurants with table service and chain restaurants with table service
  • Statistics on the kids menus offered by the top 50 chains


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