Jamie's Italian tops child-friendly restaurants league table for second time

By Emma Eversham contact

- Last updated on GMT

Jamie Oliver's restaurant chain Jamie's Italian has been praised for providing a family-friendly dining experience
Jamie Oliver's restaurant chain Jamie's Italian has been praised for providing a family-friendly dining experience

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Jamie's Italian has topped a league table ranking the health of children's food in 21 of the UK's restaurant chains for the second time.

Harvester, Giraffe, Wetherspoons and Wagamama were also in the top five of the table, created by the Soil Association for its Out to Lunch campaign, which launched in 2013 with the aim of improving the quality of food and service for children in the eating out sector. 

Jamie Oliver's restaurant group, which scored 64 out of 80, a rise of 14 points on the 2013 table, was praised for its creative menu with good nutritional content, well-sourced ingredients, healthy choice and family-friendly dining experience. 

View the 2015 league table here

The company's children's menu offers six different dishes using organic meat, free-range eggs, sustainable fish and seasonal fruit and vegetables accompanied by 'shake-me' salads, a drink and dessert. 

Oliver said: "We​’ve always believed that the quality of our kids’ food should be just as good as it is on the main menu, and I really feel that we deliver just that – dishes that that the kids go mad for, but also that their parents can trust.

"Coming top is a credit to my dedicated team of chefs and nutritionists who work tirelessly to make sure that our menus tick all the boxes. As always, we’ve kept the dishes really colourful and fun with new dishes, such as my Proper picnic box and Organic mini spaghetti and meatballs."

Improvements

The Soil Association said that despite some bad practice, many improvements have been made by restaurant groups across the country over the last two years with 10 companies now serving a portion of vegetables or salad with every meal (up from six in 2013) and nine companies now including information on ingredients sourcing on the menu (up from five). 

Prezzo, one of the worst offenders last year, was singled out for its improvements, moving 13 places on the league table, from 19th to 6th this year and praised for its work which included introducing fresh fruit and an organic fruit lolly for dessert and an activity pack that includes activities related to fruit, veg and healthy eating.

However, the Soil Association which compiled the table following secret diner visits by parents to 80 outlets and scored them against a points system based on school and early years nutrition standards as well as its own standards, said there was work still to be done. 

The most recent survey found that more than half of the 21 chains do not state where their food comes from, the majority are not freshly preparing and cooking the majority of their food in the restaurant. and three chains (Cafe Rouge, Frankie & Benny's and Pizza Hut) offer children free or discounted refills of sugary drinks as standard. 

Rob Percival of the Soil Association said: “Adults expect to be offered real food and real choices in restaurants – we think children deserve the same. We’ve found some up-market eateries are designing menus making healthy eating for children almost impossible, and price is no guarantee of quality – our league table shows lower cost restaurants are outperforming more expensive chains.

"Since our first league table Harvester and Prezzo have proved it’s possible to make major improvements – we’re now calling on other restaurants to raise the bar and give our kids the food they deserve.”

The Out to Lunch campaign is calling on all high street restaurants, pubs and cafés to improve service for children by: 

  • Making water freely available and removing sugary drinks from the menu
  • Letting children choose from the main menu
  • Serving a portion of veg with every meal and fruit-based puddings
  • Using quality ingredients such as free range and organic
  • Providing children’s cutlery as standard
  • Serving freshly prepared food, not ready meals
  • Making breast feeding mums feel welcome

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