Dishing up the truth on our high street restaurants

We've worked with an army of secret diner families to rank children’s food in 28 of the UK’s most popular restaurant chains and supermarket cafes.

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The Soil Association’s Out to Lunch campaign has kickstarted a veg revolution on the high street with more than a dozen chains committing to serving two portions of veg with every child’s meal.

Many restaurants are now prioritising child health and investing in healthier and more creative meal options. But even with an increase in fresh vegetables and organic food across the high street in 2019, many chains are serving children unhealthy and unsustainable meals – and 88% of parents are saying that children’s food in high street chains just isn’t good enough.

Who came top?

Restaurants have a big role to play in influencing what children think good food looks like. JD Wetherspoon topped the league table, followed by Ikea and Harvester, with organic and sustainable ingredients and lots of veg on the menu. Marks & Spencer Café serves no veg on the children’s menu, and several chains are offering excessively sugary puddings. Supermarket cafes, which serve millions of meals each year, were included in the league table for the first time and generally scored near the bottom of the table.

View the full league table here.

What next? 

Join the Out to Lunch campaign by calling on all restaurant chains and supermarket cafés to take four simple steps to improve the service and food they offer children:

  1. Serve two portions of veg with every child’s meal 
  2. Make water freely available and stop serving sugary drinks to children
  3. Serve children’s portions of adult dishes (ensuring they are healthy and nutritionally balanced)
  4. Use quality ingredients such as free range and organic

Tweet them now

In response to the 2019 Out to Lunch campaign, 13 chains committed to serving two portions of veg with every child’s meal within the next 12 months: Harvester, Ikea, ASK Italian, Zizzi, Giraffe, Hungry Horse, Wetherspoon, Prezzo, Leon, Wahaca, Wagamama, Sainsbury’s cafe, Brewers Fayre.

"Parents would be shocked if they knew popular chains were dishing up deforestation to their children – especially when it’s clear from top performing chains like Wetherspoon and Ikea that cost isn’t a barrier to healthy and sustainable food."Hattie Shepherd (Policy Officer for Food and Health)

Chains are withholding nutritional information from parents, failing to disclose any nutritional information for children’s meals.

"We want information on menus to help families make the right choice and we want companies to aim higher, let’s create a race to the top, let’s create ambitions to offer healthier things on the menu."Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Chains are serving excessively sugary puddings at Pizza Hut, TGI Friday’s, Harvester, and Hungry Horse. Hungry Horse’s Mini-Mania Sundae was the most sugary pudding on the league table, containing 56.2 grams of sugar and 495kcal.

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