This discussion came up in the context of my review of the Park Hyatt Aviara yesterday and I think it is an interesting question.
Should Adults Be Able To Order Off The Kid’s Menu?
I’m asking this generally, though we can narrow this down to the context of a fine hotel for purposes of this discussion.
My wife Heidi saw something on the kid’s menu she liked that wasn’t on the adult menu, so she ordered it. It happened to be cheaper, but in this case, it was less about cost and more about item selection. In the same vein, I like to order the kid’s pizza for lunch whenever I visit the Kahala in Honolulu. First, it is huge. Second and more importantly, it is not available on the adult menu.
Generally, my strategy is just to order from the kid’s menu (when relevant). Whenever you ask if you can order from it, you give your server or the restaurant the chance to deny you. Better just to assert that privilege than request it.
Anyway, my wife’s lunch selection elicited a discussion.
Reader Stuart said:
“More interesting is that your wife orders from the kid’s menu. My GF does a well and it’s interesting the reactions you get. Honestly, the food is the same and the portions often pretty exact for a lot less!…
“I was astonished one day when we both ordered a cheeseburger at a Four Seasons. Mine from the adult and hers from the kids. It came out exactly the same and I swear she even got more French fries.”
But reader Lukas said:
“I don’t think it’s cool for adults to order from the kids menu. I would never do that even if I wasn’t that hungry.”
It actually hadn’t dawned one me to order off the kid’s menu to get the same portion for a cheaper price. In my experience, portions tend to be smaller. But Lukas’s point seems too extreme.
Are children’s menus subsidized by adult menus? Or are the smaller portions on kid’s menus intended for kids, but fair game for everyone who just isn’t as hungry, akin to half orders (often available by request)?
When A Restaurant Denies You
A small story. When I was young, we once went to a coffee shop-style restaurant with my grandmother for lunch. She was 103 years old at the time (yes, she lived 108 healthy, wonderful years). As you might expect, she ate very little. Ordering off the adult menu was so wasteful because her appetite was so small. So we tried to order her lunch from the kid’s menu. The restaurant refused. They said it was only for children.
We never returned to the restaurant.
Legally, a restaurant can refuse service to anyone as long as they do not discriminate on the basis of a protected class. I’m not making a legal argument here. But the idea that is it is “cheap” or “tacky” for an adult to order off the kid’s menu strikes me as a weak argument.
If kids actually receive the same portion as adults, then why are kid’s menu selections so much cheaper? And if it is simply a way to make adults feel more comfortable bringing children, then why not just require one adult meal for every kid’s meal or something similar?
If a hotel denied my request to order off the kid’s menu, I would not return to it. It is their prerogative to deny and my prerogative whether to give them business. I don’t like nickel and dining from restaurants and don’t view it as nickel and diming from my side if we see something unique on the kid’s menu or are just not as hungry.
What About Buffets?
Buffets are a more difficult question. My three-year-old eats an adult-sized portion (heck, he eats more than me right now) but pays nothing or virtually nothing. Meanwhile, my grandmother would eat lightly but at best received a senior discount. Noting the impracticality of selling food based upon weight at a hotel breakfast buffet, is age just a fair way to charge overall? Is having a children’s discount better than just charging the same price to everyone, even if it results in uneven outcomes? I tend to think yes. But I also see an a la carte menu as a whole different matter since portion size is fixed.
Or is this just a question that no one should be discussing if they can afford a five-star hotel?
I’m firmly in the camp that one should feel free to order off a children’s menu, no matter their age. How about you?