Healthier, Kid-Friendly Fare
How One Prominent Chain Cashes In
Some parents will walk uphill and backwards through snow or rain for restaurants with healthy breakfast options for their children. They are on a mission to find fresh, organic, non-processed foods, especially when most kids’ menus are full of sugar and carbs.
“Parents come to us because we have healthy options for kids,” says Shane Schaibly, corporate chef/vice president of culinary strategy at First Watch. “It goes back to our beginnings in Monterey Bay where you find the most beautiful produce. The pillar of our brand has always been serving fresh products.”
In a bold move in 2016, First Watch—a University Park, Fla.-based restaurant group specializing in daytime dining—replaced breakfast potatoes alongside benedicts, omelets and frittatas with lemon-dressed organic greens. The company has also eliminated high-fructose corn syrup from all ingredients across its 270 U.S. locations.
“Did this cost us money? Yes, of course,” admits Schaibly, “but it was the right thing to do for our brand and customers.”
These dramatic changes trickle down to First Watch’s kids’ menu, where all options are plated with a side of fresh fruit. Even the most decadent dish, an over-sized chocolate chip pancake, is made with multigrain flour. The fresh-pressed juices are also a huge hit with kids, specifically the kale tonic.
Did this cost us money? Yes, of course, but it was the right thing to do for our brand and customers.”
– Shane Schaibly, corporate chef/vice president of culinary strategy at First Watch
Healthy ingredients may be important to many, but they’re mandatory for others. According to Food Allergy Research and Education, 5.9 million children in the United States suffer from food-related allergies. The most common are milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. First Watch caters to these kids.
“We’ve hung our hat on the fact that we make all our dishes fresh in-house,” continues Schaibly. “They’re made-to-order (items), so we customize everything for our diners. Allergies are taken so seriously that when a flagged ticket comes in, a chef is pulled off the line, washes (his or her) hands, changes gloves and manages that dish until it is served. It adds a level of complexity, but having our customers know they can trust us is paramount.”
Schaibly recognizes that all of this costs money, but “it’s worth it. We have a philosophy, ‘invest in the guest.’ We’re taking our profit and investing it back into the brand.
“Our customers notice and continue coming back for that reason. Of course, we want to make a profit, but wherever we see a higher quality or better-for-you ingredient, we’ll go down that road.”