A survey carried out on behalf of Merlin Entertainments has confirmed that parents drop their guard when it comes to feeding their children healthily on a family day out.
The survey, conducted in the UK for Merlin by GFK NOP, revealed that 50% of parents said they didn’t really mind what the kids ate on a day out. For those in the 45-54 age group, mainly with older teens, the figure rose to 67%. By contrast, 94% of mothers and 89% of fathers said they were very careful about what their children ate at home.
However, the majority of parents (61%) do now expect to find a range of healthy eating options at a theme park (or 71% or 25-34-year-old parents) and 62% believe parks offer a balanced choice. This had been noted particularly amongst the C2/C1 groups, which account for a larger percentage of park visitors.
“Theme park visits are not every day events, they are a treat,” highlights Gary Henderson, Merlin Entertainments’ food & beverage director. “While families having a day of escapism in a theme park may want to take the day off from their balanced lifestyle, we believe that ultimately it’s all about the guest’s choice. We are providing a good balance of healthier meals as well as the indulgent treats most people associate with the leisure industry.”
In 2008 Merlin, which boasts 21 attractions across the UK, reduced prices on its healthier choice foods. It has since seen sales increase at its unlimited pasta and salad stations in its pizza restaurants. Fruit pots such as grapes, strawberries and fruit salads also feature among the top selling lines at sites such as Alton Towers.
This season the group plans to review the levels of salt, calories, sugar & fat in its menus, use only traceable and GM-free ingredients, and implement new initiatives such as a burger with five “hidden” vegetables at Alton Towers and a “non fried” meal zone at Warwick Castle.
One worrying statistic for F&B operators uncovered in the survey was that 84% of parents aged 25-34 are likely to take some of their own food with them on a day out.