For some time, Oakman Inns – the pub group which owns a host of venues across Bucks, Beds, Herts, Northants, Warwickshire and Oxon – has been concerned that the limited choices on children’s menus might be discouraging young diners from trying new dishes by offering them little more than chicken nuggets and chips.
The award-winning Tring-born company asked over 1,000 parents with children aged two to 12 what they would like to see on a kids’ menu which was followed by tasting days with their young customers.
Oakman runs two Beech Houses, The Betsey Wynne, The Cherry Tree, The Akeman Inn and the Dog and Badger in Bucks, The White Hart at Ampthill in Beds, The Kings Arms, Red Lion, The Akeman, Beech House and Banyer’s House in Herts, The Navigation Inn at Thrupp Wharf in Cosgrove Northants, The Crown and Thistle, Old Post Office and Blue Boar in Oxon and the Four Alls and The Globe in Warwickshire.
They combined these insights with what they know from tens of thousands of visiting children who have ordered from their pubs in the past.
The results, says Oakman Inns’ chef director, Ross Pike, spells the end of what he calls “Beige on a Plate.”
“As well as offering healthy options that will go down well with parents and their children, we’ve tried to create family-friendly pricing with a “Formule” of three courses and one of our six side orders for just £9,” Ross said.
“That could be Carrot & Pepper Sticks with red pepper & garlic hummus as a starter, followed by our new 5 A Day Bolognese served with Broccoli & Carrots, and an Apple Crumble and Vanilla Ice Cream to finish.”
One of the young menu tasters at the White Hart in Ampthill was Antonia Woodbridge, aged 5 (pictured). Her mum, Charlotte Woodbridge, said: “Oakman Inns has managed to create a balance between the normal demands of a child and the always-present concerns of the parents. I really like the idea of the fixed price menu and the ability to select a choice of sides to go with what is already an interesting, nutritious menu. My daughter, Antonia, loved it.”
To encourage children to try new flavours and ingredients, Oakman Inns has introduced a new Sweet Potato Hash dish with rocket, avocado, feta, toasted pumpkin seeds and tzatziki.
Ross Pike added: “It’s all about keeping a balance, which is why we’ve also left some firm favourites on the menu such as Beef Burgers, Portobello Mushroom Cottage Pie, as well as their own Sunday Roast and Breakfast menus plus a variety of hot and cold drinks.”
On the back of every kid’s menu there’s a games activity sheet to keep young minds busy – and to encourage them to get outdoors and active, they have the chance to win a high-ropes climbing experience in partnership with Go Ape for a family of four.
Already well-known for their dedicated sponsorship of children’s team sport across the communities their 23 pubs serve and the annual Oakman Cup Mini Rugby Festival, Oakman believes that a healthier menu and some parental support will encourage children towards taking a step in the open air, rather than towards a screen.
One of the UK’s best-known parenting lifestyle bloggers, Lynn James aka Mrs Mummy Penny said: “We love to eat out as a family and a healthy option is always important when choosing where we eat. It’s really encouraging to see Oakman Inns have developed a new menu with healthy eating in mind. Perfect for my three sport and health conscious boys.”