If you have children, then you’ll probably be well aware of the fare offered on the ‘kids menu’ at the majority of restaurants. Most options are re-shaped meat items coated in breadcrumbs and served with chips, plus vegetable options stretch as far as baked beans.
Now top chef Marcus Wareing and leading specialist restaurant chains Las Iguanas and Busaba Eathai are supporting a movement that hopes to persuade eateries to start offering healthier menu options to the under sixteens.
The online table booking service Bookatable.co.uk are spearheading this new campaign, dubbed ‘Culinary Kids’. According to the site’s research, which involved a survey of over one thousand UK parents, nearly sixty percent of mums and dads in the UK feel that the food typically available to children in restaurants is pretty unpalatable. The same percentage of parents admit they choose where they take their children to dine based on the health factor of the dishes on the children’s menu.
“There is no doubt that improvements need to be made to children’s diets across the country,” said Bookatable.co.uk’s CEO, Joe Steele. “All too often the usual suspects pop up on kids menus like chicken nuggets and pizzas, and the more they eat them the more they are likely to choose what they know instead of trying new healthier foods.”
The key factors that parents feel could improve children’s menu options were as follows:
• More control over portion sizes
• Tasting menus made available to encourage children to sample unfamiliar foods
• Pictures of meals to allow children to make their own healthy selections
“Most restaurants across the UK cater towards this market because these types of dishes help parents keep their children happy when dining out, but our research shows that children are genuinely open to trying more food types – and their parents want to see more expansive, interesting menus on offer for their children,” said Steele.
Providing family-friendly fare is certainly something for restaurants to think about – around £4 billion per annum is generated in the hospitality sector by child-centred eating out.
Both Busaba Eathai and Las Iguanas have already altered their menus in support of this new campaign.
“To prioritise taste and discovery, we have toned down the spiciness of some of our dishes to accommodate young guests to ensure a delicious dining experience for all the family,” said Busaba Eathai’s Laura Ford. Katie Chatterton of Las Igunana said: “We are constantly reviewing our children’s menu and we are looking to expand it in the future, introducing a larger selection of smaller portions of adventurous adult dishes like Xinxim and Bahia Moqueca.”
Bookatable’s Steele is hopeful that his site’s campaign will help change the general attitude of eateries when it comes to children’s menus.
“Having partnered with Tredwell’s to reimagine the children’s menu to offer more food diversity and now working with some of the country’s top chain restaurants to develop their menus, we really believe this could be the start of a more adventurous era of children’s dining,” he said.