THE BLOG

Why Restaurants Are No Place to Treat Children

05/02/2015 15:19 GMT | Updated 06/04/2015 10:59 BST

Eating out is a treat; whether once a year or week it's a pleasure to be waited on, cooked for, and get a smile (a smile!) in return for dirty dishes - unless that is you're unlucky enough to be under 12.

Back in the, let's go for a rose-tinted, 'balmy' summer of 2013 I set out with a small army families to find out what the nation's high street restaurants were serving up to our youngsters.

Many a meal and tantrum later we together came to a conclusion that will come as no surprise to most parents. As one fed-up family put it: "these restaurants would go out of business if they treated their grown-up guests the same."

Our restaurants too often served up the usual suspects - nuggets, burgers, fish fingers - and chips, plates lacking colour and creativity, with variations on a theme of ice-cream to finish. Staff failed to really cater for kids (let alone speak to them), offering takeaway teaspoons as 'kid's cutlery' and one-size-fits-all portions regardless of age or appetite.

Of the 21 chains, Jamie's Italian, Wetherspoon's and Wagamama led the pack for their food and service, but even they were far from flawless.

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Parents tell us they don't expect much, a family friendly welcome, freshly cooked food, plenty of choice and kids portions of adult's meals come top of their very reasonable wish-list, which, I'm glad to say, restaurants are starting to listen to.

In response to our Out to Lunch campaign giraffe and Harvester have made changes to their menu and service, serving up more variety and reviewing their service to make sure they offer a really family-friendly welcome.

It's about time, for too long kids' menus and service has played second fiddle to an all singing all dancing main menu to tickle grown-up taste buds and keep us coming back for more. A trick missed surely? Happy kids bring returning families and years of future custom, as McDonald's well know.

Of course, the last thing we need is more 'Happy Meal' toy tactics, the opposite in fact. Restaurants and chefs can show their young guests that tempting food doesn't have to cost our health, it can be tasty and fun - a real treat. Restaurant tables shouldn't be turned into a battlefield for any parent, guardian or grandma who wants their child to eat well.

It's not rocket science, consideration and common sense is all it takes. Any restaurant worth its salt should be able to rise to the challenge of satisfying their most discerning guests, whether the dish of day is plain pasta and or what Dad is having.

In 2013 70% of parents told us kid's food wasn't good enough, this summer we'll be taking to the high streets again to find out which restaurants have taken their customer feedback seriously.

What do you think of kid's menus? Let @SoilAssociation know using #OutToLunchUK

Find out more about the Out to Lunch campaign.