Raw deal for children in UK restaurants

17 July 2013

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Out to Lunch league table exposes the truth about 21 chain restaurants and pubs children's menus.

  • Post horsegate, only one chain could reliably tell parents where their meat comes from
  • Almost half of restaurants do not offer vegetables or salad with a majority of their children’s main meals
  • Only 1 restaurant offers children’s cutlery as standard
  • Jamie’s Italian, Wagamama and Wetherspoon’s ranked highest
  • Burger King, KFC and Prezzo have scored the least points on a league table

Britain’s leading restaurants and pubs are giving children across the UK a raw deal with children’s menus dominated by the usual suspects, like nuggets, burgers and sausages, few fruit or vegetables, and not even the provision of children’s cutlery, it has been revealed today following new research from the Out to Lunch campaign from the Soil Association and Organix.

Out to Lunch is calling for the restaurant industry to improve standards and make changes to their children’s menus. The investigation shows 66% of parents think the food provision for children in restaurants is not good enough. 21 popular high street restaurants and pubs were surveyed looking at what’s on the menu for children over a three month period, revealing that:

  • 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 tell us 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

In line with the research, Out to Lunch has today 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 Wetherspoon’s 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.

Joanna Lewis, Head of Policy at the Soil Association comments: “Our investigation reveals that most high street restaurants are not even meeting the most basic standards families should expect when they eat out. Most are still churning out children’s menus dominated by the usual suspects – burgers, nuggets and pizzas –turning the table into a battlefield for any parents wanting their child to eat well. With 1 in 3 children now overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, it’s time for these popular chains to use their influence in a positive way.

“Restaurants need to raise the bar and listen to parents who are saying they want fresh food not ready meals for their children, and the same kind of variety you’d expect as an adult. In the wake of horsegate, it also rings alarm bells that only one restaurant knows where its meat comes from.”

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

Anna Rosier, Managing Director at Organix says: “Four out of 10 parents (40%) told us they eat out once a fortnight or more with their families. If restaurants and pubs want to ensure business stays strong and see customers return, they need to start improving what they’re serving to children.

“We want families – parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles – to help get behind our campaign to see change. Restaurants will only start improving if we start being more vocal about what we’re seeing and vote with our feet.”

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

  1. 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.
  2. To be vocal and share feedback with family and friends.
  3. To vote with their feet. If a restaurant is not up to scratch, don’t go back.
  4. To support by wearing the ‘I support Out to Lunch’ badge on their Facebook and Twitter profiles.

“With the summer holidays upon us, families will be enjoying eating out more often and we want to see thousands of reviews being left behind this summer, not only in chain restaurants, but independents too. If we create enough noise, together we can help make change happen,” continues Anna.

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 www.soilassociation.org/outtolunch.

Restaurants can find out how they size up, and get support and advice on the small steps, and bigger steps, they need to make by downloading the Out to Lunch toolkit.

The detailed league table, restaurant profiles and full list of criteria are available on our website at www.soilassociation.org/outtolunch


For more information, interviews or high res images please contact the Out to Lunch PR team at BOTTLE on outtolunch@bottlepr.co.uk or 01865 770381
Soil Association press office – hblack@soilassociation.org or 0117 314 5170

Additional quotes

Kathie Auton, age 35 a mum of two children age 5 and 3, from Bristol, helped the campaign with its research and says: “The offering for children when eating out is an area that’s been bothering me for quite some time. I want them to be able to choose great food, but restaurants also need to remember that if the kids are having a good time, then the parents will too.”


Wetherspoon’s Senior Food Development Manager, Jameson Robinson, said: “We are very pleased to be recognised for the work we have undertaken on our children’s menu.

“Wetherspoon serves more than two million children’s meals each year across our pubs and appreciate the importance of sourcing UK ingredients and offering balanced meals.

“We know that there is still more work to do to enhance the menu further, including offering varying portion sizes and we will be working towards this.”

Notes to editors

1. The Out to Lunch league table of 21 chain restaurant and pubs:

  1. Jamie’s Italian
  2. Wagamama
  3. Wetherspoons
  4. Carluccios
  5. Harvester
  6. ASK Italian
  7. Café Rouge
  8. Frankie & Benny’s
  9. Strada
  10. Nandos
  11. McDonalds
  12. Hungry Horse
  13. Giraffe
  14. Beefeater
  15. Pizza Express
  16. Pizza Hut
  17. Zizzi
  18. Brewers Fayre
  19. Prezzo
  20. KFC
  21. Burger King

The chains were scored against a points system based on school and early years nutrition standards, good practice drawn from the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark (which accredits 140 million meals a year in workplaces, restaurants and schools) and 1,000 parents telling us what mattered to them, such as:

  • If a variety of dishes is offered to children, making healthy eating easier
  • Whether food is cooked fresh, meat is traceable and free range eggs and sustainable fish are used
  • If children and families are welcomed and high chairs and children’s cutlery are available

Chains were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their offering to children, and a team of 40 families visited and reviewed over 70 establishments from the league table.

2. About Out to Lunch campaign partners:

Soil Association
The Soil Association is the UK’s leading charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. We think good food should be available to everyone, as a right not a privilege.

We campaign for change, and we make it happen – every day 800,000 meals are served to our Food for Life Catering Mark standards every week day, in workplaces, restaurants, hospitals and schools. The Catering Mark is a unique way for restaurants and caterers to gain the recognition they deserve for serving great fresh, locally healthy, ethically sourced food.

To find out more about the Catering Mark visit www.soilassociation.org/eatingout/cateringmark

Created in 1992, Organix exists to give children the best start in life, by giving parents better, more nutritious choices for their little ones. Campaigning for healthy choices for children at every stage of their developmentis at the heart of everything Organix does and that’s why the Out to Lunch campaign is so important to the company.

Organix foods are developed by real people in their kitchen, using nothing but the best natural organic ingredients, so parents can rest assured there’s nothing in the foods to stop them being food as it should be, just as parents would make at home. That means nothing artificial, just ingredients full of goodness – perfect for giving babies and toddlers great food foundations for life.

For information on our foods and recipes see www.organix.com
For information on Out to Lunch see www.facebook.com/organixfood
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