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National Restaurant Association - Tony Roma’s beefs up healthy kids items

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Tony Roma’s beefs up healthy kids items

Jim Rogers, chief marketing officer of Tony Roma’s restaurants, talks about feeding kid customers more healthful meals and how his chain has fared since joining the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program.

Why did you get involved with Kids LiveWell?

With the world becoming more health conscious, we felt that we should not only have healthy options for our adult customers, but also for the children and youth who dine with us. A child’s mind, energy and moods are stabilized by a healthy diet.

What challenges did you face in rolling out more healthful options?

Creating a kids’ menu is of course challenging, but also fun.  One in particular was dealing with the taste profile of a child. We asked each other how we’d get a child to eat vegetables, fruits and more and also thought back on our own childhood favorites. That kind of took us down memory lane.

What was your R&D process?

We looked at the amount of calories, fiber and carbs a child was supposed to have within specific age ranges and built our menu mainly around calorie intake. We also utilized simple flavors and ingredients.

How do you get kids to like healthful food?

We believe children want to eat healthful foods so we try to incorporate fun items into each dish. For example, our Kids’ menu items are served with a vegetable, but also something fun and delicious.

What lessons have you learned so far?

To keep it simple; a child’s outlook on food is based on appearance and initial tastes. The flavors of our dishes may be new to them so keeping it simple with everyday flavors is good. We didn’t want to throw too much at their palates. 

Any advice for others looking to offer healthful kids’ items?

Try to make each dish fun. Add as much color to the plate as possible and don’t try and push the envelope. Kids know what they like and what they want. Cater to their needs and wants, not yours as adults.

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