Out to Lunch 2018 investigates the UK’s most popular visitor attractions

Out to Lunch

Visitor attractions, from museums to zoos, theme parks to art galleries provide excellent entertainment for British families, but unfortunately the food on offer can often be woefully disappointing.

Why does Out to Lunch matter?

The latest figures show that 1 in 3 children leave primary school overweight or obese so it is becoming more important that they form healthy habits when they are young. British children are eating 1 in 5 meals outside the home and, while a day out is a treat, any setting serving food to children plays a role in their relationship with food.

Cause for celebration

The results are in! With the help of our secret diners our Out to Lunch campaign has released a league table ranking 22 of the UK’s most popular visitor attractions on the food and service they offer to families. The good news is that since our first Visitor Attractions league table in 2016 we have seen a marked improvement from several of the attractions we surveyed: 

League table

Who is doing well?

  • Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh have leapt 11 places to claim the top spot by serving fresh seasonal and organic fruit and veg straight from their own Market Garden. 
  • River Cottage Canteen at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo served the healthiest meals, serving two portions of veg with every child and adult meal.
  • The Science Museum, a new entrant this year, has opened the first fully vegetarian café at a major UK attraction, catering to popular demand for healthier, more sustainable and more climate-friendly choices.
  • The British Museum has climbed 10 places, having introduced a portion of veg with all children’s meals and salad in all lunchboxes (in 2016 no child’s meal or lunchbox at the Museum was served with a portion of veg).
  • The Natural History Museum has climbed 9 places having scored in last position in 2016, the Museum introduced a portion of veg with every child’s meal and made information about ingredient provenance and animal welfare available on the menu.

Room for improvement

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. Working with an army of secret diner families Out to Lunch has uncovered unhealthy lunchboxes pre-packed with suspect ingredients, and a lack of vegetables. We found that attractions are often offering much healthier options to adults than children. In fact, only 5% of the parents we surveyed felt that children’s food at popular visitor attractions is good enough.

We also found that attractions frequently use promotional deals to push unhealthy junk food on families. Kids’ plates are still being loaded with sugar – one pudding contained 63g of sugar, more than triple a child’s recommended daily allowance! Many attractions are failing to support British farmers by buying produce flown in from far and wide rather than local sources. There were also ‘Hydration Stations’ serving refillable fizzy drinks but no fresh drinking water!

Changing children’s food for the better

The Out to Lunch campaign is calling on attractions to take five simple steps to improve the food and experience they offer to children and families:

  1. Ensure that all children’s lunchboxes and main meals include a least one portion of veg
  2. Ditch unimaginative ultra-processed foods and focus more on fresh ingredients
  3. Protect parents from an over-abundance of sweet treats, which make it harder to enjoy a healthy and happy day out
  4. Make free fresh drinking water available to families throughout their visit
  5. Support British farmers by buying the best of British produce, including organic

If you would like to do your bit, please share these steps on social media with the hashtag #OuttoLunchUK and tag the visitor attraction you think needs to clean up their act!

We would also love it if you shared your best and your worst food stories on social media using the hashtag #OuttolunchUK

Find out more about the Out to Lunch results.