UK leisure destinations face a number of pressures that are preventing them from creating healthier children’s menus, it has been claimed.
The Soil Association’s most recent Out To Lunch campaign, which ranked children’s food in 22 of the UK’s most popular visitor attractions, revealed that adult meals at attractions are typically healthier than children’s meals, with one popular destination offering no vegetables at all with its children’s meals, while its adult menu featured more than a dozen types of vegetables.
Alex Demetriou, managing director of procurement specialist The Regency Group, says there has certainly been conscious efforts from all the attractions we work with to offer a more balanced and healthy diet. But he says there remains a mindset of parents that, when visiting a leisure attraction with their family, that children will be allowed a dining ‘treat’ as part of the day out.
“This may mean they will have the option of chips and other things that they may not have very often at home. We often see that where healthier options are available, they tend to be the lowest-selling lines,” he comments.
Offering healthier options at visitor attractions certainly comes at a cost, particularly over the past year, which has been exceptionally difficult for a number of reasons.
Demetriou said that fresh food like fruit and veg is more expensive and “perishable if not sold”, whereas frozen food is cheaper and minimises waste.
“Add to that the minimum wage requirements, a shortfall of seasonal workers, and continuing uncertainty surrounding Brexit, and producers have faced very difficult financial challenges, which has a knock-on effect,” said Mr Demetriou.
“At a time when costs seem to be continually rising, attractions are under increased pressure to deliver what customers want at the same time as reducing waste, and this can deter them from opting for the healthier options.”
He said another way to encouraged increased healthier eating on days out is to ensure that calorific information is made more widely available on menus.
“We believe this will become legislation in the coming years for all outlets serving food. We’ve already seen some of the bigger brands, like McDonalds, Costa and Starbucks put calorie counts on their menus, and I think this is just the start of things to come for caterers.
“The implementation of this approach would, I believe, certainly lead to an improvement in the amount of healthier options available at leisure attractions.”
The Regency Group works with more than 2,700 leisure businesses throughout the UK, including hundreds of golf clubs, plus pubs, hotels, zoos, farm attractions and many others.