Catering for Kids

Kid-centered catering is a hot market that’s grown with the children’s party craze. Ordering pizza and playing Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey just won’t do anymore, as Pinterest and mommy-bloggers set the bar ever higher for clever, themed kids’ parties complete with matching menus.

Plenty of busy parents will pay for help keeping up with this trend. With a little creativity and awareness, you can tap into this market and provide a valuable service for moms and dads who have more cash than kitchen skills.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re preparing food for kids:

Safety: Make sure the food is age appropriate. If you’ll have toddlers in attendance, consider offering a plate or a portion of your buffet specifically for this age group, and use care to avoid foods that present choking hazards, like hot dogs.

Allergies are another serious concern when serving children. Discuss allergy concerns with your client before designing your menu. Are there any known food allergies in the group? Will parents be in attendance to help kids choose according to their allergies?

Flavor: kids like simple, familiar flavors. Simple dishes prepared with few ingredients give picky kids less reason to balk. Obviously, limit spices and strong flavors when designing children’s menus.

Presentation: the simplest foods become appealing to kids when presented in a fun way: sandwiches cut into shapes, fruit plates arranged into faces, basically anything served on a stick. And theme is king at children’s parties—how can you incorporate the party theme into your dishes?

Interactivity: kids like to play with their food, so give them something to do. Serve finger foods with dips—even kids who don’t usually eat vegetables can be persuaded if they get to dip them. Offer a cup of diced fruit, veggies or mild cheese and provide picks to spear them with (not too sharp!). For older kids, offer a build-it-yourself pizza or sandwich station. Kids who get involved with their food are more likely to eat it.

Portions: remember that at parties, kids tend to be distracted and eat less. Plan on serving food in smaller portions, and talk to your host about timing. Should you serve as guests arrive, before they become engaged in party activities? Or later in the event when the initial excitement has died down a bit and kids are better able to focus on food?

Nutrition: discuss nutritional expectations with your client. Today’s parents are hyper-aware of nutritional issues and may have very different opinions about what constitutes a nutritious meal. Some parents may be less concerned about the nutritional value of party food, but some may expect your fare to be as healthy as it is tasty and fun.