Are our children getting a raw deal when we eat out?

As a family of five we used to eat out at least once a week as a way of spending time together as a family as we rarely eat together at home with my husband working different shifts daily but over the last 6 months we have eaten out less and less due to the soaring costs and really poor food, once at a Bella Italia my eldest found cardboard in her fish finger, no not on it but actually INSIDE IT! From then on I’ve always read the children’s menu carefully before choosing to eat out yet its always fallen short and the Organix and the Soil Association reviews of children’s menus across the country have only added to my woes when it comes to eating out.

RAW DEAL FOR CHILDREN IN UK RESTAURANTS
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 2chains 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 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.
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.
League Table:

A truly shocking discovery on all fronts, with your help to spread the word hopefully something will be finally done to change these statistics!
L x

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