‘I’m 7-years-old and I don’t like kids’ menus’

Burger and chips

Sausages, burgers, fish fingers, chicken nuggets… do you want chips with that? Josh, 7-years-old and son of a Which? member, is no fan of the food on kids’ menus. In this guest post, Josh puts forward an alternative.

Why do people always put the same things on the kids’ menus? Do they think we might not like it? The chef thinks the kids won’t like it – that kids aren’t like adults, that we can’t eat different food!

What’s wrong with lasagne, risotto, curry, noodles, pasta, rice, gammon, lamb chops, fish cakes or even Sunday lunch? We don’t want just burger and chips for every meal. We want different things.

Why’s it always the same?

At half term I went on holiday to Whitby. We went out for quite a few meals. We went to two pubs, a café, an Indian restaurant and the supermarket. Every time we went out for a meal, my mum and dad would look at the children’s menu and ask what I wanted. All it said on the menu was ‘stuff and chips’ – always the same.

In the end, I just ate a grown-ups portion, from the grown-up menu, because I thought that the kids’ meals were too small, and a bit boring. The only different place was the Indian restaurant, where I could choose anything from the menu (I had a chicken korma).

Last time we went to our local pub I had fish fingers and chips, and I was so hungry afterwards I had to have two puddings! I could have eaten a whole Sunday lunch afterwards! Kids meals are too small and too boring, and the same everywhere.

I want just one menu

The answer is for places to just offer just one menu, with lots of choice, but to let people choose the size of meal they want. So if my dad and I both wanted risotto, he could have a normal portion and I could have a smaller one. If he felt really hungry, maybe he could have a bigger portion. Some places do this but only if you ask. Why not just make this the normal thing that happens?

I do have some friends of my age who like to eat very boring food, so they like kids’ menus, but I think there will always be something from an adult menu that they could eat. Maybe they could even try something new!

Menus just for kids are boring. I would like to tell places not to be scared that children won’t like their food – be a bit more confident – be brave with the food they offer, and they might be surprised.

This is a guest post written by Josh Gillingham, 7-years-old, with help from his mum. All opinions are Josh’s own and not necessarily those of Which?. You can read more about how Josh got to write for us in his bio.

Comments
Member

Hello Josh and welcome to Which? Conversation.

I think you and your mum should be able to choose what you would like to eat and not just have to choose from the kids’ menu. Perhaps if you ask nicely you might find some places happy to help.

I have known older people ask for small portions because they don’t eat much and do not want to waste food.

Best of luck. 🙂

Member

Well said Josh.

I also think different portion sizes should be available on menus.

I sometimes meet friends for lunch when I only want a small meal. I hate wasting food so am usually stuck with ordering a starter which very rarely fills me up. Sometimes a side dish can supplement a starter but then the cost can be the same or more than a full size meal. I usually tell the food server I only want a small meal and ask their advice on what is suitable. Very often just get a shrug !!!

I only know of one pub that does smaller portions and it is a very popular place to eat.

Most restaurants will not let adults order from the children’s menu. I was in Pizza Express recently and they did let me order from the children’s menu when I told the waiter I was only after a small meal. But I would agree with Josh, it was a fairly boring choice even though it was probably better than most children’s menus.

Member

Good thinking Josh. Many adults would prefer smaller portions of real food, like kids. When we holiday in Dartmouth with our grandchildren there are some restaurants that will give smaller portions, or offer some meals as both starters or as main courses. Don’t expect to pay too much less for a smaller portion though, as much of the cost is in overheads rather than food.
Their mum has a good way of giving them meals they like at home; she gets them to cook recipes with her so they help make their own food. They will go through a recipe book and decide what to eat; rarely does any food get left.

Member

Well done Josh you are a great ambassador for your generation! Maybe when you grow up you will own your own restaurant and offer a much wider variety of choices for kids. As your name implies you already show great leadership qualities.

Member

I agree that child sized portions of main meals should be available, and think your point of children getting to try new foods is a very good one Josh. As a vegetarian I was rarely able to eat anything at all from the children’s menu in most restaurants and pub, and often had to choose my meal from the adults menu and leaving a lot on my plate (which contributed to my Dad’s expanding waistline as he polished off my leftovers). I grew up trying and liking a lot of ingredients that my childhood friends had never even heard of! The option of a smaller portion from the main menu would be a great way to educate children about other types of food, as well as encouraging them to go for healthier options minus the chips!

Member
John says:
12 March 2014

Many places do Senior Citizen portions for a reduced price which are the same as standard menu but smaller! Surely these could be made available to children.

The current choice on children’s menus does nothing to teach the children healthy eating or experience of different foods. When I go out to eat, I like to choose something that is not usually available at home and preferably without chips! The trouble is that people are eating for convenience, not for pleasure!

Member

When I was a kid, in the 60s, restaurants and cafes used to offer children’s portions of most menu items. The same but smaller.

Bring back children’s portions!

Member
Ray says:
12 March 2014

You make an extremely good point, even at fine dining restaurants and boutique hotels the menus are similar, I have been a waiter at and worked in hotels and restaurants all through the West End of London for many years and, Yes, the kids menu is always burgers or chicken & chips, or variations on the same theme. It had never occurred to me that the menu was the same everywhere because I wasn’t eating it, so good job for pointing that out.

I work in a boutique hotel and I am going to raise this with the GM (our Kid’s Menu: Chicken Fingers and Potato Wedges or Tomato Pasta with Cheese).

Member
sheila rice says:
13 March 2014

Well done Josh I have a10yr old who is very much like you he would rather have veggies than chips with his meal but is not often given the choice or we have to pay extra to get veggies for him as a side order if offered a choice between burger and chips or a child’s Sunday lunch he would go the Sunday lunch every time he is also a big lover of seafood of any sort but again often the only choices are standard fish and chips luckily here in Aus they do offer calamari as well which is generally what my son orders as he doesn’t like many of the other options on the kids menu. Keep it up you are doing a great job

Member
Jane Cathcart says:
13 March 2014

Well done Josh, I totally agree with you. Not only do I think the kid’s menus are dull & boring they send out the wrong message about healthy eating and I hate the word “kids”. A kid is a baby goat. Why not say children’s menu or young person’s menu.

Member

Do you know, I’d love to have a freshly-cooked plate of fish fingers. chips and peas but no, because I am officially classed as an adult [despite behaviour and appearances] I have to have a Steak & Ale Pie, or a Lamb Shank with mashed potato, cabbage and leeks.

Some of the pub restaurants in our area do serve junior versions of the full Sunday Roast Dinner menu with a choice of meats, roast poatoes, vegetables, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. Whether it’s appealing to Josh and his peers is another question.

Member

Chips are a treat for me also when eating out as we don’t have a deep fat fryer and oven chips aren’t that good. Still don’t have them that often though, as we tend to do Thai, Indian or Chinese when eating out.

Member

Welcome to Which? conversation Josh!

From a personal point of view, my grandmother has reached an age now where she can rarely manage a full-portion and hates to waste food. She often orders from the children’s menu and I know she would appreciate more of a selection.

As you say, maybe some children are a little fussier, but usually you can get a burger and chips on an adults menu if they’d be happier with that. I think it’s a great idea to introduce more variety for kids into restaurants, well done for speaking out 🙂

Member
Anne says:
16 March 2014

My husband and I (ages 88 and 79) would love to eat out frequently now that we have fewer responsibilities and more money to spend on ourselves. However, my husband is increasingly reluctant to eat in restaurants, Where we live there are no restaurants that offer smaller adult meals. I am a non-fussy Vegetarian with a big appetite, but often just have to eat THE vegetarian “choice”. My husband is a lifelong meat-eater but he can only manage a small portion these days. He is overwhelmed by a large plateful of food and hates leaving food. Having lived through the shortages of a World War, most older people feel that way.

We appreciate that a smaller portion would not cost substantially less, but we think we should have the option. We have asked for a doggy bag and this has always been provided (if you don’t mind eating the same meal two days running!) but recently were refused on the grounds of “Health and Safety”! The reason given was that my husband might give himself food poisoning if he kept the food too long and the restaurant could be blamed! So look out folks for all Takeaway meals being banned – unless they are planning to come round the following day and make sure you have eaten it!

At the other end of the scale, I do know what Josh is talking about. I recall taking my grandson, then about 3 (now 28) to a middle grade restaurant in Essex. He had just been to Italy with his parents. I read the menu to him, including the children’s dishes. He listened carefully and when the waitress came he said “I’d like the garlic bread and then some prawn pasta, please” The waitress looked over to me and asked what I would like to order for my grandson. So I just asked her to bring him what he had just asked for. She did and he ate it all!

Member

Hi Josh – thanks for the great post, you make some really good points.

My own sons prefer it when they’re able to order smaller versions of the adults’ meals. It does get a bit dull otherwise, as usually the choice you get is always really bland and it’s the same on every menu – spag bol, macaroni cheese for the veggies (I have no idea what vegetarian children who don’t like macaroni cheese are supposed to do), sausage and chips, chicken nuggets and chips, fish and chips.

Children should have more choice.

Member
Catherine Bryden-Smith says:
13 March 2014

Children’s meals should just not exist. In places like France and Italy they don’t offer decent food to the adults and junk to the children – they have one menu and children just eat smaller portions. Adults should also be able to order smaller portions if they want. In one pub I know, OAPs can order smaller meals from a special menu, but I am not an OAP so not entitled to have one. In these days of so much obesity, there should be different sizes offered. Well highlighted Josh!

Member
Anna says:
13 March 2014

My children were reared on adult food. When one of my sons was eight years old, he was invited to a children’s party at a burger restaurant. On his return he begged never to have to go to one again!

Member
Julie Clarke says:
14 March 2014

Well said Josh!
I agree my Grandson doesn’t like chips, he is nearly 6 now and his sister is 1 1/2, he too gets really bored with the menus. Another problem is when you are just starting to chose from the menus you get a child’s portion which is too much! An 18 month old can’t eat a whole portion then it gets wasted! Sometimes the waiter says if you eat it all up you can have a nice ice cream. That’s not fair if the child’s portions go up to the age of maybe 12 and you are only 4 or 5 is it?
One last thing is the size of the cutlery! They give you full size knives and forks, could they not get smaller sets for the little ones? The times we have had to ask for a teaspoon to help with beans or peas and then desert! (common sense should come in to play here).
Lets hope these restaurants listen to you and other diners Josh!

Member
Jill Ward says:
14 March 2014

I agree, there should be different sized portions for everyone, but if you are a child who is celiac and must have a gluten-free diet, the problem is even worse.

A jacket potato is about the only choice on the menu, or a full-price salad. In this age of so called equality, it is upsetting that eating out for my grandchildren is generally just not possible so, not only do they miss out on choice, but also they do not have the opportunity to enjoy using all the social skills that eating out involves.

Member
Tim Dabbs says:
14 March 2014

When I was in Ireland some time ago, in most restaurants, a child would have the same menu as an adult, but in a child’s portion. This is so simple and cuts out the need to have a separate children’s menu!

Member
Ginette Jones says:
14 March 2014

I’m a grown up vegetarian and I’ve often looked at children’s menus and thought that the child menus I’ve seen don’t cater to vegetarians at all. Vegetarian dishes on most menus have cheese in them and my body can’t cope with melted cheese. You have my sympathy Josh. Please, may Josh have his smaller portions and may I have more veggie options without cheese!

Member

It is very hard when going to a restaurant for the first time to know what size the portions will be. They can vary so much.

As children we always had smaller portions at home when we wanted them so that food wasn’t wasted. Meals tend to arrive plated in a restaurant. Perhaps particularly with roasts there could be a smaller meat portion and then the vegetables served separately as they would be at home.

We often go out with elderly relations who do not want to eat such large meals but the only small meals available are starters (which you can often have a larger portion of).

It is very important to ask as they will presume that their menu is absolutely brilliant until and unless people comment and ask for variations eg salad instead of chips!

As for the fish finger/chicken nugget/burger and chips kids menu – that should only appear in restaurants that only serve larger portions of the same for grown-ups!

Member
Essie says:
20 March 2014

My nearest pub/restaurant serves lots of choices on the menu and with two prices, one for small and one for normal. No need for a children’s menu, or worry about portion control.
At home, when my grandchildren visited we gave them a small portion of dinner with the proviso that if they wanted more they had to eat it. So they would tell me how much they wanted on the plate. Pudding came about an hour afterwards

Member
RogerM says:
14 March 2014

Just back from New Zealand where the food is really good but the portions would choke a horse and I hate to see good food going back to the kitchen.

Josh makes a strong case for something to be recognised by eating places. One of the great things about taking young people out for a meal, particularly to restaurants, is that it is part of the process of growing up. Menus should be inclusive and treat the young (and the old) in exactly the same way as everyone else. For most menu items it would surely not be difficult for eating places to offer “standard” or “small” portions with appropriate price adjustments?

What about a campaign on this subject Which?

Member

It is up to the customer to speak up or we’ll just get what the businesses choose to sell us and not what we’d like best.

I wonder how many people ask for the remains of their meal to be bagged up so that they can take it home. I have just done that with an Indian takeaway. I happen to be very happy to eat it cold and rather worried about heating it up. So there is no problem there. The over-ordering was deliberate there but in other places you just don’t know how much you’ll get unless you are a really regular user – which most people don’t and won’t want to be.

How many people share a meal in a restaurant? I’ve been to restaurants where the portion is enough for two if not three people.

We often share a pudding but it is harder to share a main course.

Some of the best restaurants of course serve smaller portions anyway.

Isn’t it noticeable how people look for bigger and smaller pudding portions because they have got to the end of the meal and they would perhaps like a little something sweet if they have a smaller appetite and a larger something sweet if they have a bigger one?

Once a restaurant is known for their food and the large size of their portions it is rather difficult for them to reduce the amount. That can mean that they lose their bigger in more ways than one customers. Those will no doubt be the customers who complain. Many others will just walk away without saying anything – not go back because the portions are too big. Speak up!

Member

I think that restaurants that also do take-aways are happy to bag excess food. As a couple, we regularly eat Indian food and only order what we know we will eat. On the odd occasion, we have ordered extra for one of us to have a meal the next evening and have never had a problem reheating it but do always make sure it is throughly heated through.

Other restaurants can be more reluctant. Customers couldn’t possibly be wanting it for themselves and if you call it a doggy-bag, it might not be in a fit state to eat again.

I have often asked for 1 scoop of ice-cream at the end of a meal. Servers are usually ok with that.

Member
Geoff P says:
15 March 2014

Nice one Josh, the chain restaurants are particularly guilty of this. Try Jamie’s Italian if you get the chance as it’s a chain that thinks of kids. In fact write to Jamie Oliver and ask him to start a nationwide campaign to change the thinking on kid’s menus. He’s always up for a challenge! If not write to the One Show. Good luck.

Member
Elsa says:
17 March 2014

Hello Josh
I agree with you entirely. When my children were small they did not want to eat anything on the children’s menu either. They would choose two starters each when they were small and ate from the adult’s menu when they got older.
Apart from tasting better, the food choices were healthier than burgers or chicken nuggets and chips.
My children are grown up now, 27 and 24, so it is high time restaurants cook decent food for children.

Member
Valerie says:
17 March 2014

Nice to hear a child’s (other than my own children’s) opinion on this, which I agree with entirely. However I am not sure whether eating places have deteriorated since mine were young (over 30 years ago) or whether I don’t remember “kids menus” because we automatically disregarded them as offering only food the children didn’t want, but I do not remember them as being a standard part of the menu in most places. I do have one particular memory, though, of lunch on a cross-Channel ferry where there was a kids menu and my five-year-old saying emphatically that he didn’t like anything on it so would have something from the normal menu, at which the waiter looked extremely surprised, even shocked. The return was on a French boat – no kids menu there as children ate the same as adults in France.

When my son was younger, perhaps 2 or 3 years old, I used to order something for myself which we both liked, or even something new which we wanted to try, and ask for an extra plate so that we could share it – the single portion being generally too large for me in any case. In this way he was introduced to a wide variety of foods and is now an absolutely brilliant cook himself. I never found any problem with sharing a single portion, although this was generally somewhere in Europe – you didn’t see many children in restaurants in England in those days, often due to the policy of the restaurant itself excluding children: the restaurant in our area with the best food would not admit children under 12.

Member
Glenn says:
18 March 2014

The kids menu should be the same as the adult menu just in smaller portions. I have too small kids and sometimes buy one adult meal with 2 plates. People who say their kids only eat ‘whatever’ are bad parents. I like the simple French resturants were you get little choice but food is great.

Member
Jan Caborn says:
18 March 2014

Well done Josh, and all the others who have commented. One of our best cafes in Sheffield offers many main courses as smaller ‘starters’, these are great for children and those who only want a small portion. Can’t think why more places don’t do the same, it would save on prep. time and actually probably increase profits as ‘adult’ mains are usually more expensive than items on the childrens’ menu; considering that a lot of children eat Chinese, Thai or Indian takeaway there is no reason why they shouldn’t like the more exciting flavours offered in the main menu. However, like John Ward, I too love a plate of fish fingers, chips and peas with tomato ketchup, yum!

Member

When it comes to portion sizes, I don’t think adults get a particularly good deal in most eating places. Kitchen staff seem to have difficulty rounding up more than ten peas to put on a plate and they must have access to genetically modified plants that grow only half a tomato on each stem. How mean is that?! Also too thick-skinned for my liking, and the tomatoes aren’t much better.

Member

Meat is generally the most expensive item in main courses. Both young and old people differ in the amount of vegetables they like, so it would be good if we could all choose what we want when the meal is served.

John’s suggestion that half tomatoes might be genetically manipulated is daft, but look out for hemispherical peas designed easy to eat without them landing on the floor. 🙂

Member
Peter Roberts says:
18 March 2014

Josh, you have an excellent view, and you have put your case forward well. Yes, owning a restaurant one day us an idea, but maybe being a lawyer, fighting for the human rights of the underdog could be considered. I believe in you, and support your efforts.
Well done, fighting for children’s rights, to be treated with more thought!

Member
Caporns says:
21 October 2015

We agree! Great observations by Josh.