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National Restaurant Association - At rQ, barbecue is healthy for kids and tasty, too!

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At rQ, barbecue is healthy for kids and tasty, too!

Ron Rupp is beefing up the healthful kids’ meals he offers at rQ Barbecue. Located in Shorewood, Ill., the single-unit Rq is a member of the National Restaurant Association Kids LIveWell program.

Tell us about rQ Barbecue.

Rq had a story to tell. We didn’t see anything out there in our segment that was at least moving toward the healthier side of barbecue. I believed we could create a barbecue restaurant with a fresher perspective. We’re offering healthy options that are succulent in taste, free of nitrates and allergen-free.

Is everything on the menu aimed at healthfulness?

When people are looking to eat barbecue, they often want a robust meal, but we wanted to offer choice. We believe we can offer healthier options and alternatives as well as more robust items. We’re of the mind that a lot of foods aimed at kids these days aren’t that healthy and we wanted to change that. We offer chicken nuggets, but ours are made from breast meat and smoked instead of breaded. Just because they’re not breaded doesn’t mean kids don’t love them. It’s a great way for them to experience nuggets that have the same health profile as baked chicken.

What makes you different from your competitors?

We try to offer the best possible products available. Our meats are either all-natural or free-range. It does ratchet up our food costs, but we believe it increases customer loyalty and guest satisfaction. We’re just one unit right now and new to the industry, but I can tell you we have passionate moms who come in here with their kids all of the time. And we have big barbecue guys coming in, too.

Why did you decide to join Kids LiveWell?

We looked into different organizations promoting healthfulness for kids and found that Kids LiveWell fit our strategy very well.

What do you offer as a Kids LiveWell menu option?

Kids can order a protein – anything from smoked chicken to pulled pork, salmon or turkey – and  a vegetable side item and a juice box or milk. We sell a lot of turkey and chicken sliders.

What’s been your biggest challenge and reward?

The biggest challenge is our food cost. The reward is we know we’re doing the right thing, that parents know it and support it. It’s hard to create a new brand and momentum for it, but we’re excited about the future. No matter what, we don’t want to lose focus on what we’re about. We want to push our passion for kids living healthy and provide the best quality food.

What advice would you give to others?

Don’t be satisfied with ‘no’ from your suppliers. And don’t take the cheap route or give in and buy what’s available and cheaper. Have a passion for doing right for kids. They’re the future, the ones who will have the buying power later on.

Pictured from top right: Rupp at his restaurant in Shorewood, Ill.; above right: rQ's pulled pork slider

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