The Zoo’s Restaurant, Bean Sprouts, Caters to Families with Fun, Healthy, Kid-Focused Food

Well, Shannon Seip and Kelly Parthen, two Madison-area mompreneurs, took that piece of kid-feeding wisdom and ran with it.

A new kind of restaurant

Ten years ago, when the new moms met at grad school in Madison, they commiserated over the lack of restaurants that were both kid-friendly and had something on the kids menu that was healthier and more interesting than chicken nuggets and fries.

Seip says, “We envisioned a place where parents had a delightful guilt-free, anxiety-free experience, and kids were just thrilled with the options, and they could order whatever they wanted, where the food tastes good and is fun. We wanted to empower kids to make their own wholesome choices.”

And that’s exactly what’s on the menu at Bean Sprouts, which opened at the Milwaukee County Zoo in July.

RELATED: 3 things you didn’t know about the Milwaukee County Zoo

Seip’s and Parthen’s vision is on display at the kid-level counter with full-color pictures of the imaginative menu, where kids can order their own food.

Creating a kid-friendly menu

And this kids menu is drastically different than at regular restaurants, even restaurants at family-friendly places like children’s museums and science centers. Seip explains, “All kids menus are afterthoughts. They’re always on the back of the menu, and they’re always the same things. You go to these places and the kids have these great imaginative experience, and then the food is a letdown. They’re not living up to what they’re trying to achieve with their children’s experiences.”

At Bean Sprouts, on the other hand, making healthy food kids will want to eat is not an afterthought; it’s the first consideration.

The Imaginibbles menu includes things like a Do-Re-For-Me sunflower butter and jam sandwich made in the shape of a sandwich, a Grilledzilla grilled cheese sandwich shaped like a monster and a pizza with a cool face made out of pepperoni.

Health is a top consideration as well, as is the prevalence of food allergies in children. The menu is completely nut-free (hence a sunflower butter sandwich rather than peanut butter), and gluten-free bread can be used for all the sandwiches.

The sandwiches are served with veggie tots, which Seip explains is Bean Sprout’s answer to fries. They’re made with cauliflower, broccoli and carrots, are baked instead of fried, but are in a fun tator tot form, an ingenious method to get extra veggies into the kids.

Settling into their niche

Bean Sprouts restaurants can be found in ten locations throughout the country, in children’s museums, amusement parks and science centers, in other words, everywhere families take their kids to have fun.

And now families are flocking to Milwaukee’s location as well, the first time Bean Sprouts has opened in a zoo.

Seip says, “We opened in July, and it definitely created quite the buzz. The zoo’s Facebook page had ten times as many comments about Bean Sprouts as other things going on. There was a lot of sharing, and a lot of parents saying things like, ‘Oh, finally!'”

Seip and Parthen are excited about the response Bean Sprouts at the zoo has gotten and are enthusiastic about expanding their reach, with more locations in the future. Seip says, “We’re excited to fill that gap as more and more customers ask for healthy options. We’re sticking with family destinations because no one else is serving the niche the way we do.

For more information about Bean Sprouts at the Milwaukee County Zoo, check out the zoo’s website or the Bean Sprouts website.

, MetroParent MagazinePublished 12:19 p.m. CT Sept. 11, 2017

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