One popular destination offered no vegetables at all with its children’s meals, while it’s adult menu featured more than a dozen types of vegetables.
We believe the solution should involve not just the industry taking steps – but parents, too.
There has certainly been conscious efforts from all the attractions we work with to offer a more balanced and healthy diet.
But there remains a mind-set 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.
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.
Fruit and vegetables have been more expensive this year due to the long winter and then exceptionally hot summer, resulting in poor harvests. 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. Fruit and veg is usually fresh, and therefore perishable if not sold. Many unhealthier foods, like burgers and chips, are often frozen, which makes it easier for visitor attractions to control wastage.
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.
The Soil Association’s campaign focused on some of the largest attractions in the UK, but the outcome may have been more positive if some smaller attractions had also been taken into account.
There is a huge second tier of visitor attractions in farm parks, which is an industry has continued to grow over the past 10 years consistently. In these environments, we see a much bigger focus on fresher, healthier, produce, and locally sourced meats, often from their own or neighbouring farms.
Another way to encourage 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 we think this is just the start of things to come for caterers.
The implementation of this approach would, we believe, certainly lead to an improvement in the amount of healthier options available at leisure attractions.