UK family attractions slash children’s meals as cost-of-living crisis bites

Our Out To Lunch 2022 campaign sent an army of “secret diner” parents out to assess the quality of food on offer at 16 UK visitor attractions.

We gathered the results and marked the attractions out of 100. We revealed how attractions are “slicing, dicing and ditching” children’s menus as they battle with rising ingredient costs and staff shortages.

Who topped the league table?

Our secret diners rated the Eden Project as the best attraction overall, with Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh, Chester Zoo, Science Museum and ZSL London Zoo close behind. Drayton Manor took the unenviable bottom slot of the league table, with World Museum and The Ulster Museum narrowly avoiding last place.

Are you surprised by the results? Despite having higher quality meals, the top two attractions are also among the more affordable days out. Second-place holder Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh doesn’t charge for entry and eating out at league table leader Eden Project costs just 24p more than dining with bottom-place Drayton Manor.

What should this year’s attractions do next?

Parents reported a lack of options with children’s menus removed entirely or smaller than before the pandemic. Children aren’t offered hot meals at almost half of the venues and several only offered “nutritionally inadequate” packed lunches lacking fruit or veg.

We know that it’s tough out there, but attractions must improve the food offering for children, including putting hot meals back on kids’ menus, making child-sized portions available and ensuring that kids receive at least one portion of veg.

19 million more portions of veg will be served with children's food in the next 12 months because of our Out to Lunch campaign

Out To Lunch - our progress so far

Since we started the Out to Lunch campaign in 2013, we’ve seen huge progress made by high street restaurant chains. Restaurants now have fairly good sustainability policies in place and, through being part of the campaign, are committed to continuous improvement to make their menus for children more nutritious and sustainable. Changes we’ve seen so far include:

  • More vegetables now feature on kids’ menus: millions more portions of veg are being served because of the combined impact of the OTL 2019/21 campaigns
  • There has been a huge increase in vegetarian and vegan options: reflecting the customer demand for diets containing less meat
  • Ten out of twenty restaurants have signed the ‘Stop Deforestation Pledge’, with a goal to make their supply chains better for the planet
  • Several restaurants are actively looking at ways to address the sugar levels currently found in kids’ desserts.

Will you help us to change the menu?

As a charity, we rely on the passion and support of people like you.

We work with farmers, retailers, caterers and government to change the way we farm and eat. 

Give a regular donation, and say ‘yes’ to a food and farming future that supports public health. 

That's not all we're doing to improve children's food

Out to Lunch is part of our wider mission to transform the way we eat. Our Food for Life programme works with schools, early years, care homes and hospitals to make good food the easy choice for everyone. Find out how you can get involved and join our good food revolution.