Results from the Out to Lunch campaign, which started its review of 21 high street restaurants and pubs in May, found that 66 per cent of parents think the food in restaurants and pubs is not good enough for their children.
Unhealthy options were a major concern for the majority of the 60 families investigating the restaurants. According to the survey, the children’s menus in more than half of the restaurant and pub chains, which included Giraffe, Prezzo, Pizza Express, JD Wetherspoon and Harvester, had a high presence of burgers, sausages and nuggets while less than half (10) of the restaurants offered a portion of fruit in their desserts.
Parents were also concerned at the number of restaurant and pub brands that were unable to confirm where the food they were serving came from. Only 11 out of 21 were willing to confirm that food was freshly cooked and where it came from while of that 11, only four were making and cooking children’s food in the kitchen (Jamie’s Italian, Wagamama, Carluccios and Café Rouge). Only one restaurant chain, Jamie's Italian, could say where its meat came from.
Other gripes from the 1,000 parents asked for their views, included a lack of children's cutlery, sugar-free drink options and signs welcoming breastfeeding.
Joanna Lewis, head of policy at the Soil Association said: “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 one in three 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."
What families want
When it comes to eating out with their children, parents said they preferred to order their offspring smaller portions of adult dishes rather than off a specific menu.
They also said they were more likely to visit restaurants that cooked food to order rather than relied on reheating ready meals.
Organix managing director Anna Rosier said with four out of 10 parents taking their children out to eat at least once a fortnight, restaurants needed to listen now to parental concerns.
"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," she said.
Restaurant and pub 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 the views of 1,000 parents.
The results have been drawn up into a league table, rating the restaurants one to 21. It can be found here.