‘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.

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?

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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. 🙂

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!

Caporns says:
21 October 2015

We agree! Great observations by Josh.