Wednesday 31 July 2013

Are children getting a raw deal in UK restaurants?

Organix and The Soil Association have been carrying out an investigation into children’s menus and the results are pretty damning. The Out To Lunch report includes 21 restaurants, from multinational fast food chains to celebrity restaurants and ranks them in how well they provide the overall experience to families, including whether it’s children's choice in food, whether they have high chairs provided or whether breast feeding is allowed in the restaurant. The findings have been compiled following extensive research which began in January 2013, including a study of over 2,000 parents.

The investigation shows that 66% of parents think the food provision for children in restaurants is not good enough. Here are some of the key findings :

12 out of the 21 restaurants and pubs have children’s menus dominated by nuggets, burgers and sausages

Eight out of 21 chains don’t include vegetables or salad in the majority of their children’s main meals

10 don’t include a portion of fruit in any of their children’s puddings

Only 11 out of 21 chains were willing to say if their food was freshly cooked and where it comes from. Of the 11, only 4 were making and cooking the majority of their children’s food in the kitchen: Jamie’s Italian, Wagamama, Carluccios and Café Rouge

Only one chain (Jamie’s Italian) could reliably tell parents where its meat came from

Only 1 offers children’s cutlery as standard

No restaurants have signage welcoming breastfeeding on their premises

Only 2 chains offer a children’s drinks menu free from added sugar and sweeteners

The most worrying one of these is that, post horsegate, only one chain could reliably tell parents where their meat comes from. I find this shocking - how can it be allowed ? The lack of kid-sized cutlery and the rarity of vegetables on most kids' menus are also things that have annoyed me in restuarants in the past.

In line with the research, Out to Lunch has also issued a league table ranking the 21 restaurants and pubs to show the industry and consumers what chains are offering children.

Jamie’s Italian, Wagamama and Wetherspoons have come out on top of the league table, while Burger King, KFC and Prezzo scored the least points. Although average meal price varied from restaurant to restaurant, this did not determine where chains came in the rankings.

The Out to Lunch campaign is calling on all high street restaurants and pubs to:

1. Offer all young diners the choice of a children’s portion of adult meals
2. Serve freshly prepared food, not ready meals
3. Offer free water to families on arrival
4. Offer children’s cutlery as standard
5. Make breastfeeding mums feel welcome

Out to Lunch is asking families to carry out four simple steps to back the campaign:

To tell restaurants what they think. The Out to Lunch downloadable Campaign Pack includes a review slip to make is easy for families to leave it behind on the table.
To be vocal and share feedback with family and friends.
To vote with their feet. If a restaurant is not up to scratch, don’t go back.
To support by wearing the ‘I support Out to Lunch’ badge on their Facebook and Twitter profiles.

Jamie Oliver, founder of Jamie’s Italian which came first in the league table said; “Since the first Jamie’s Italian opened we’ve always kept things kid-friendly with our funky viewfinder menus and super-tasty food, so to come top of the table is a fantastic achievement, and more importantly, confirmation that we're doing things right. We believe that the quality of the kids’ food should to be right up there on the same level as the main menu, and I truly believe that we have a brilliant offering that both kids love and parents can trust.
“Over the years, I’ve learnt that if you give kids a bit of ownership over their food, they’ll really embrace it, so that's exactly what we’ve done with our “shake me” salads. Every dish on the kid's menu comes with one and it counts as one of a child’s five a day. I’ve seen parents completely amazed that their kids are eating salad, and that's down to the fact that they’ve been involved and had fun putting it together.”

For a more detailed insight into the Out to Lunch league table visit

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Calling all fame-seeking mini-foodies !

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