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Talk to Organix about taking your child out for a meal: you could win £100 restaurant voucher - NOW CLOSED

(117 Posts)
AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 23-Sep-13 11:28:35

Organix are interested in your views on the standards of food served to children and experiences of families when eating out in the UK.

Organix say "We're working in partnership with the Soil Association to inspire restaurants and pubs to provide real food, real choices and a great experience for children. We have created a league table of the top 21 restaurant chains in the UK and their offering for children. Now we'd like to know what you think about this topic".

Please share on this thread what you think about the below:

~ Do you agree or disagree that the general standard of children food and eating experience needs to improve in restaurants in the UK?
~ Do you have any good or bad examples of kids menus in your local independent restaurants, pubs and cafes? What do you like or not like about them?
~ In your experience, are independent restaurants worse or better than the chains at catering for your and child’s needs? Why?
~ Have you any good or bad experiences to share about breastfeeding your child in restaurants?
~ What more could restaurants do to make breastfeeding mums feel welcome?

Add your comment and you'll be entered into a prize draw where one MNer will win £100 of Love2Shop Restaurant vouchers (valid at hundreds of restaurants across the UK). The prize draw will happen on Monday 30 September.

You can read all about Organix, the Out to Lunch campaign and how you can get involved on their special pages on MN.

thanks and good luck.
MNHQ

Halfbaked Sat 28-Sep-13 19:52:52

~ Do you agree or disagree that the general standard of children food and eating experience needs to improve in restaurants in the UK?
I think generally choice is poor and limited to nuggets/sausage/chips/ pasta. I would think if your child was veggie it would be very difficult. I think training of staff needs to improve, especially in "family friendly" places as just little things could make the experience more pleasant, like where you are seated, getting a highchair having space for buggies, quick service and actually engaging with the children. Clean highchairs too, some are utterly disgraceful.
~ Do you have any good or bad examples of kids menus in your local independent restaurants, pubs and cafes? What do you like or not like about them?
I think places that offer the same as adult but smaller portions are good, but agree with many that what a 2year old will eat is not the same as a 12 year old. I hate food waste, so serving 5 fish fingers to my 2 year old is just ridiculous, for us and the restaurant. The standard ice cream for dessert is rubbish too, often not the same quality as for the adults.
Giraffe have been good for making orders quick, bringing lidded drinks with straws in them, plus crayons paper and a balloon over when my toddler started to get grumpy.
I wish places would bring the food quickly and at a temperature that a small child could eat. It's normally piping hot and trying to cool it down before my toddler grabs and burns herself just makes it stressful.
Independent place Waffle House in Norwich is great for kids menu as mainly smaller version of adult dishes (although still too big for a toddler) there's a bit of mix and match which is good for picky eaters.
~ In your experience, are independent restaurants worse or better than the chains at catering for your and child’s needs? Why?
I think some chains are good- weatherspoons/giraffe/ pizza express and some are poor cafe rouge/ prezzo
Some chains have more stuff like highchairs/ space but I think it's often down to the staff that makes it for me. Just a bit of customer service can go a long way. That differs and I don't think being a chain or independent makes a difference. I think generally our attitudes to children eating out in the Uk need to improve, we should teach our children how to eat out but be supported by restaurants to do so.
~ Have you any good or bad experiences to share about breastfeeding your child in restaurants?
Never had any issues
~ What more could restaurants do to make breastfeeding mums feel welcome?
Quiet place, space staff who provide water and discretion. Love the spork/knork idea.

MumOfAPickle Sat 28-Sep-13 20:08:28

Best time eating out with our two was on holiday in menorca where they are so family friendly. They serve smaller portions of the normal menu as well as the usual stuff and loads of the restaurants had stuff for the kids to do - bouncy castles, trampolines, play equipment. I know lots of mnetters will think it sounds hideous but honestly it was all outside, all well laid out in a pretty enclosed space and meant me and Dh could have a leisurely meal with a glass of sangria every evening and kids had a ball, bliss!!

My pet hates eating out are, kids menu but no kids cutlery. Bringing the dc's food out on scorching hot plates. No kids drinks (yes I'm looking at you Pizza Express - £2.30 for a bloody orange juice!! Nearly a fiver just to get the kids drink each angry)

poachedeggs Sat 28-Sep-13 20:55:58

~ Do you agree or disagree that the general standard of children food and eating experience needs to improve in restaurants in the UK?

YES! I am sick to the back teeth of chicken nuggets, turkey dinosaurs, crap or absent veg and general poor quality and choice.

~ Do you have any good or bad examples of kids menus in your local independent restaurants, pubs and cafes? What do you like or not like about them?

I like places that don't do a kids menu, they just do half portions instead. Much better.

~ In your experience, are independent restaurants worse or better than the chains at catering for your and child’s needs? Why?

I probably don't have wide enough experience of this but I would say independents probably have more flexibility and so maybe do a better job of meeting the needs of children. However, places like Pizza Hut are fab for kids as they love all the salady bits, pasta, pizza etc.

~ Have you any good or bad experiences to share about breastfeeding your child in restaurants?

To be honest I am neutral about this - I don't expect to have experiences when breastfeeding, it's just something that human beings do when they have babies. It's never been a particular issue either positive or negative. Which is as it should be!

~ What more could restaurants do to make breastfeeding mums feel welcome?

Just have some seating that's not a rickety wooden chair in the middle of a busy room. And free cake grin

Babyonway3 Sun 29-Sep-13 06:02:16

I live in Southern Spain and I love the way that children are catered in restaurants out here in comparison to UK. The first thing that strikes you when eating out in Spanish restaurants in comparison to UK is that children are ALWAYS welcome! from the restaurant staff and diners, you never get 'dirty looks' as if to say 'why on earth have you brought your children here' which I have experienced plenty of times in UK - you are much more likely to have people smile fondly at the children or make a nice comment. Also, there is rarely a separate menu for kids, most restaurants will give a small ration of whatever is on the menu.. - I think UK restaurants could learn a lot from the atmosphere here in Andalusia towards children eating out with their parents.

purpleroses Sun 29-Sep-13 11:28:54

~ Do you agree or disagree that the general standard of children food and eating experience needs to improve in restaurants in the UK?
It's not too bad really.
~ Do you have any good or bad examples of kids menus in your local independent restaurants, pubs and cafes? What do you like or not like about them?

I like it best when they offer a half size portion of anything on the menu. And where they don't put raw onion in salads.

~ In your experience, are independent restaurants worse or better than the chains at catering for your and child’s needs? Why?
I have to say overall the chains are better. Independent restaurants round where I live are usually going for the couples market. They don't do children's menus, and are generally much pricier than chains which makes then unaffordable for family dining. The chains will usually produce paper/crayons as well which is good for younger children

~ Have you any good or bad experiences to share about breastfeeding your child in restaurants?
I breastfed all over the place and never had any problems. Would always do it discreetly with a cardigan.

~ What more could restaurants do to make breastfeeding mums feel welcome?
Nothing really. Just accept it as normal when it happens. I don't want to see big signs saying "breastfeeding welcome" I would rather just assume that of course it's welcome unless they state otherwise. Personally I wouldn't want to go off away from everyone else to feed, though I think there are some mums who prefer to feed in private, so a comfy seat in or near the toilets might be good for them.

DanglingChillis Sun 29-Sep-13 18:09:02

Food for kids in restaurants is generally quite poor I think, you have to seek out the places that are good. Independents are either much worse or much better than chains depending on the actual place. I've found the place that are best are the ones that are not obviously 'child friendly' but are friendly to the children of their customers IYSWIM. We have a very naice restaurant near us and they are fantastic with kids, they have a good kid's menu with real food, also do half portions, the kids get child sized metal cutlery (don't get me started on the adult sized plastic cutlery from IKEA that most places offer) and nice melamine plates and cupss. They have waitress service (can't be doing with going up to a counter when I'm out with the kids), take the kids food out just before the adults so you have time to cut it up before you get your own. Best of all, there are very few kids there!

We've just had a really good experience at a local castle where they do a family picnic platter, lots of small plates of food put in the middle of the table, we got nice sandwiches, delicious pork pies (I'd never had a pork pie I liked until today, I now see the attraction!), tasty mini quiches, crisps, salad, chutney, pickles. It was really tasty, the kids tried everything, and was also not too expensive. And they had a model castle for the kids to play with, what could be better?

I've never had any negative comments about BFing in local cafes or restaurants. Most people are very supportive in my experience. I've been given a big glass of water when the waitress noticed I was BFing, that was really thoughtful.

~ Do you agree or disagree that the general standard of children food and eating experience needs to improve in restaurants in the UK?

I agree - we have no childcare, so only ever eat out with the DCs. Although the places we eat normally make a fuss of the children, more interesting meal choices would be very welcome.

~ Do you have any good or bad examples of kids menus in your local independent restaurants, pubs and cafes? What do you like or not like about them?

9 times out of 10, it seems to be chips with fish fingers/burgers/nuggets etc, no matter what the adult menu is. I suppose this suits a lot of children (and my eldest would certainly never turn down chips!), but it would be refreshing to see the main menu reflected more in the children's menu. I would like DS1 to have a real choice - at 3, he probably thinks that "... with chips" is what restaurants are about.

I appreciate it when a restaurant offers smaller portions of the main menu for children (most recently, thank you Number 1 Bar and Kitchen in Norfolk smile ). I personally also like it when simple drinks (eg, milk) are on the menu - DS1 is still young enough that he will drink whatever he is given.

~ In your experience, are independent restaurants worse or better than the chains at catering for your and child’s needs? Why?

Unfortunately there is a lack of good independents locally, so when away from home I actively seek out independents who have a reputation for catering well to both adults and children. To me, a good restaurant/eaterie is somewhere where DH and I can enjoy a nice meal, but our children aren't afterthoughts. It doesn't need to be all singing and dancing, but a clean highchair, balanced children's menu, friendly attitude and welcoming manner make for a good eating experience. I am more likely to find these attributes in an independent, but I have to seek them out.

~ Have you any good or bad experiences to share about breastfeeding your child in restaurants?

I breastfed DS1 for 3 years, and am currently breastfeeding DS2. I have never had a bad experience in a restaurant - people just carry on as normal, which is how I like it!

~ What more could restaurants do to make breastfeeding mums feel welcome?

Comfy chairs are always a plus, as is enough room between the seating and the table. I've found that a few chains have fixed bench seating with tables that are on the high side, meaning I have to sit at an odd angle. Other than that, nothing that they wouldn't do for another customer, mainly provide good service (eg, offer drinks) and perhaps lend a hand if mine are full.

starlight36 Sun 29-Sep-13 22:42:23

The general standard of children's food does need to improve. We find that a lot of children's menus still tend to have lots of chicken nuggets and chips or sausages and mash - regardless of the food on offer on the general menus. It would be great to have smaller portions of the main dishes on the children's menus. We have been in a few independent pubs and restaurants where often mini portions of roasts are served at the weekend.

In general independent restaurants and pubs tend to be more child friendly.

I tend to time feeds to avoid breastfeeding whilst out for a meal. Partly this is so that our baby is fed and asleep so that I can fully relax and enjoy the meal without amusing our baby.

StarsAboveYou Sun 29-Sep-13 23:13:11

~ Do you agree or disagree that the general standard of children food and eating experience needs to improve in restaurants in the UK?

Disagree, I've eaten out with DS regularly and have never had any issues.

~ Have you any good or bad experiences to share about breastfeeding your child in restaurants?

Again, I've regularly bf in cafes and restaurants without ever having any problems.

~ What more could restaurants do to make breastfeeding mums feel welcome?

No concerns so I can't suggest anything here.

Lilpickle08 Sun 29-Sep-13 23:33:30

~ Do you agree or disagree that the general standard of children food and eating experience needs to improve in restaurants in the UK?

Totally agree - the food is very 'samey' - all chicken nuggets, burgers, chips etc, never seems to be particularly healthy, though there are exceptions of course. They always seem to end in ice cream too - what about some nice 'healthy' ish puddings?

~ Do you have any good or bad examples of kids menus in your local independent restaurants, pubs and cafes? What do you like or not like about them?

Some of the independents have a more varied menu and healthier options - for example, soup, jacket potatoes, spag bol. Also the independents tend to make their own sauces etc rather than buying them in, so the food is healthier AND tastier.

~ In your experience, are independent restaurants worse or better than the chains at catering for your and child’s needs? Why?
This varies to be honest. I have a child with serious food allergies, so some of the independents are not that great with knowing what allergens are in their food, whereas the majority of the chains have allergen leaflets or information recorded somewhere that outlines what ingredients are in their food.

~ Have you any good or bad experiences to share about breastfeeding your child in restaurants?
I haven't been brave enough to breastfeed in a restaurant. I did do a sneaky breastfeed in the corner of a pub though.

~ What more could restaurants do to make breastfeeding mums feel welcome?
I would be more comfortable if they had posters that said 'we welcome breastfeeding here' or something like that - so you know that if a member of public objected, the restaurant would be on your side. It's sad that there is still that worry really, but unfortunately people do still kick up a fuss! Also it would be great to have a little area where you could breastfeed discretely - with comfy chairs etc.

An interesting debate!

mummyofcutetwo Sun 29-Sep-13 23:53:59

DH, DS1, DS2 and I went for an unplanned meal at a local pizza restaurant yesterday. The staff are divided into people who seem to consider customers to be an utter nuisance and others who love children and love to see families out to dine together.

The things they do well - they always have a lot of highchairs available and they're happy for babies/toddlers to share your food.

The things they could do better - a bit more space between tables so people don't trip over the legs of the highchair and then glare at you; a stock of toddler friendly plates/bowls/cutlery; not put the steaming hot plates of food/jugs of water/super sharp steak knives in front of the toddler (you've moved EVERYTHING from in front of them for a reason!); to understand that you'd like the bill and to pay quickly after the meal has been finished as toddlers and small children aren't so very good at small talk and can get a bit restless if bored!

I tend to try to take some toddler cutlery, straws and a few small and quiet toys/books everywhere with me but sometimes I do get caught out.

NotCitrus Mon 30-Sep-13 07:41:58

My eldest is 5. It's got a lot better and problems tend to be individual clueless staff rather than anything else.
Eg two 4yos had been really good so we let them order icecream, so one scoop each of choc or strawberry.
Had to chase order 3 times. 45 min later a waiter brought bowls of 3 scoop of different flavours and both had total hysterics at huge portion and Wrong flavours. And waiter panicked and said he had to ask kitchen for more, couldn't just put scoop onto separate bowls. I gave him one minute before demanding cups from the barmaid and doing it myself - so then of course just as we were leaving, an hour after the order, two more icecreams arrived and boys howled because they weren't allowed to eat them...

Generally it's fine, just give me easy to provide bits and don't muck about with them - if child scared of most food asks for a plain Yorkshire pudding on a plate, and you say no problem, bringing a bowl with the pud half sunk in gravy isn't going to go down well. Nor is pulling the same pud out!

High chairs helpful but not vital, and better none than the weird padded reclining Graco ones. Bench seats in booths handy once they can sit. And bring the bill quickly, especially if asked at the start of the main course - kids are fine for two courses but want to push off at the end.

Independents are the same - usually good, often great, staff are crucial. Flexibility - offering half of most pasta dishes, starters, or just like the cafe the other day, letting toddler have a whole slice of cheese while I had a coffee.

Breastfeeding - never had a problem, some cafes have obsessively offered me water. But some cafes don't have any sofas or low comfy chairs so I didn't go to them when bfing. Being told "please come again!" is really reassuring when you have spent a couple hours on one drink trying to bf a tiny baby.

Agree a bfing sticker on the door would be reassuring.

AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 30-Sep-13 11:49:00

Thanks for all the interesting feedback: am pleased to say the winner of the £100 voucher is YourHandInMyHand - congrats!

smile So happy! grin

CatHackney Wed 02-Oct-13 23:06:40

Restaurants could make breastfeeding mothers feel more welcome by posting a "breastfeeding welcome" sticker on their doors, offering to bring over water, and offering food.

Restaurants generally tend to put too much salt into adult food as it is, so I'd be keen on places that offered fresh food for kids without salt and with a nice variety of vegetables. Plain pasta is unacceptable.

I've bf in all sorts of places no problem. We have a new local gastro pub & it's great to see they'll do 1/2 portions of adult meals for kids. I feel it shows it's all home made not frozen in microwaveable portions. I love taking my dd out to eat but find it easier if it's just me & her as she gets all the attention so doesn't get bored

Noseynoonoo Sun 24-Nov-13 21:55:55

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