Children in Hotels: When It Comes to Restaurants
While having breakfast at the Alain Ducasse Restaurant at the Plaza Athénée, I discovered the special menu suggested for children. I thought it was an excellent idea to offer an illustrated menu for children where they can choose their pastries, cereals, orange juice, etc. Luxury hotels have to be able to pay attention to all of their clients, from the smallest to the oldest. A hotel that pays attention to its ‘tinier clients’ demonstrates the importance of the client experience. For some, it might be nothing more than a detail, but for me, it’s utterly essential.
The Children’s Menu at the Plaza Athénée
Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and fine hotels still have a way to go in the art of welcoming children. While discussing with Alain Ducasse during a lunch in the Queen’s garden at Versailles, which he organized to present his restaurant at the Plaza Athénée, we exchanged a few ideas on the nature of dishes to offer to children.
Alain Ducasse has just come out with a new book « nature, simple, sain et bon » (‘Natural, Simple, Healthy, and Good’) that serves as an incredible source of easy recipes to prepare for children. That’s what we parents expect when we arrive at a hotel with our children. There’s no reason that they shouldn’t be treated just as well as their parents. I leave you to discover my interview with Paule Neyrat, who has collaborated with Alain Ducasse and Jérôme Lacressonnière, and who will be very useful in defining your restaurant suggestions for your tiny ones.
What kind of breakfast offerings should hotels offer children and more specifically in a buffet?
Everything depends on the age of the child and whether he or she has enough teeth to chew or not!
In general, from the time they are one year old, they can chew just about everything; they no longer need baby food. From there, we just have to select a breakfast that is well-balanced, be it lightly buttered toast with jam, a bowl of milk (in which they can dip them to soften their bread), fresh fruits (or fruit salads on the condition that they are natural and without added sugar). We also have to make sure that that they know how to use a fork, as necessary, when they are at the table.
A bowl of milk is absolutely necessary, but it can easily also become a hot chocolate.
Whatever age the child may be, we have to carefully avoid giving him bowl of industrially manufactured cereal with excess sugar and salt. Hotel staff should know better to offer something more like mueslis, which are much lower in sugar and salt. And avoid pastries, which provide too much lipids (fats).
Before they are one year old, a baby might be on baby food composed of milk and baby flour, whether on the bottle or on the spoon. Until they are over 7 months old, this flour should be gluten-free.
What should hotels offer children from 3 to 6 years old to help them build their taste palettes?
Once they are over two years old, a child can almost eat anything. In fact, their sense of taste develops early on, from their very first fruits or vegetables, around the age of 6 months old. It’s from this moment on that children should be offered fruits and vegetables, all the while avoiding, of course, those that are too strong or are too acidic or might be too difficult to digest. This progression can be found in the diversity table in Nature Bébés.
What are their specific needs?
They need a great deal of calcium in order to grow. That’s why dairy products (the best producers of this mineral salt) have to maintain a presence in their diets. The more regularly and continuously a child drinks milk (until their adolescence and even after that), the less likely they are to have the misfortune to develop lactose intolerance.
And of course, they need proteins, but that’s not a reason to put ground steak of 100 grams on a children’s menu: 50 grams a day (not per meal!) is enough for a 3-year-old and 70 grams for a 6-year-old.
They use up a lot of energy, as much in their activity as in their growth and development, hence the large need for carbohydrates, which can bring them this energy. They can find this in pasta, rice, and other starchy foods. Even though children love fries, restaurants should offer something more in the line of pasta and vegetables, that is, a dish lower in fat and much more balanced.
What should they avoid at all cost?
Foods that are too salty or too fatty and desserts that are too sugary.
Also, meals that are too largely portioned; one should never force a child to eat more than their appetite. In order “to not waste anything” and because they are paid (more or less enough!), parents can be tempted to force their child to finish their dish even when they’re no longer hungry.
Paule Neyrat’s Biography:
The granddaughter of a chef and dietitian, Paule Neyrat has always been at work on nutrition and gastronomy. The creator of Stages Escoffier, workshops aimed at helping professionals perfect their cooking, she has worked for over twenty years with some of the biggest names in the business. A specialized journalist in the field of diet and nutrition, she is also the author of numerous books. Since 2003, she has worked closely with Alain Ducasse Édition, notably on Spoon Cook Book and the Grands Livres de Cuisine Méditerranée, Tour du Monde, Best Of, as well as the Nature collection.
About the book Nature Bébés:
- Published by Alain Ducasse Edition
- Authors: Alain Ducasse, Paule Neyrat, and Jérôme Lacressonière
- Photography: Rina Nurra
- Design: Lissa Streeter
Available in bookstores from 15€ and on iBookstore from 4,99€
Laurent Delporte, an editor and conference speaker, is a strategic expert in the sector of hotels. A visionary, he brings his unique look on hotels in service to the decision-makers in the industry, whether to enhance the development of new projects or strategic visions.
Laurent has visited and audited over 350 hotels across the world and also participates in mystery visits to provide quality control for the world’s finest hotels.