Some cities are better suited to family activities than others – from the difficulty of using a dolls pram in crowded spaces to choosing a suitable restaurant for dining out, where you live can drastically impact your options.
We wanted to find which UK cities have the most child-friendly restaurants, by looking at Tripadvisor. We also wanted to discover the best chain restaurants in the nation for family-friendly eating, looking at children’s menu options and vegetarian choices.
The best UK cities for family dining
1. Portsmouth – 60.16% of restaurants are ‘child-friendly’
On England’s south coast, Portsmouth is home to beaches and one of the liveliest food scenes out of all UK cities.
Portsmouth is the UK’s best city for family-friendly dining, with 60.16% of all restaurants listed on Tripadvisor being categorised as child-friendly.
2. Slough – 59.75% of restaurants are ‘child-friendly’
Slough has an impressive food scene, offering a variety of different cuisines in both fine dining and relaxed home-style settings.
One of the best cities for family dining, 59.75% of all restaurants on Tripadvisor are listed as child-friendly.
3. Telford – 52.63% of restaurants are ‘child-friendly’
The Shropshire town of Telford is best known for its Ironbridge Gorge, a tourist hotspot and UNESCO World Heritage Site, although it is also one of the best UK cities for family dining.
Of the 323 Telford restaurants listed on Tripadvisor, 170 are marked as child-friendly.
The worst UK cities for family dining
1. London – 30.35% of restaurants are ‘child-friendly’
The UK’s hotspot for culture, music and cuisine, London has no shortage of restaurants, with neighbourhoods like Soho and Bethnal Green known worldwide for their food scenes. Despite the range and quality of restaurants to be found in London, it is the worst city on our list for family-friendly dining.
We found a total of 20,416 restaurants in London listed on Tripadvisor, 6,197 of which are tagged as ‘child-friendly’.
2. Bradford – 32.02% of restaurants are ‘child-friendly’
Home to Michelin-starred fine dining and some of the best curry restaurants in the UK, Bradford is known for its cuisine.
However, just 211 of all 659 restaurants in the city are listed as ‘child-friendly’ on Tripadvisor, amounting to 32.02%.
3. Birmingham – 32.06% of restaurants are ‘child-friendly’
Birmingham has one of the UK’s most diverse dining experiences, with cuisines from all over the world. However, just 654 of the 2,040 Birmingham restaurants listed on Tripadvisor are categorised as ‘child-friendly’.
The best UK chain restaurants for family dining
1. Harvester – Family-Friendly Score: 7.58/10
Famous for its family-style farmhouse dining, Harvester is one of the UK’s favourite chain restaurants to enjoy with the whole family. In our study, Harvester comes in first place as the most family-friendly chain restaurant, ranking better than most chains across all factors we looked at.
The Harvester children’s menu has 41 items, including small and large meals to suit children of all ages and appetites. Each meal comes with the option of two vegetable sides, or one veggie side and one regular side. Vegetable sides include peas, corn, beans and fresh vegetables, providing an excellent choice for a balanced meal.
The average price of a children’s meal at Harvester is £5.99, which is close to the average price out of all chain restaurants we looked at. For vegetarian options, Harvester is one of the best chain restaurants in the UK, offering 49 vegetarian plates on the regular menu.
2. Beefeater Grill – Family-Friendly Score: 7.34/10
Beefeater is one of the UK’s most successful chain restaurants, known for being an affordable, family-friendly choice of steakhouse.
Beefeater has an extensive kid’s menu, consisting of 25 children’s menu items, including starters, main meals and desserts. Each Beefeater meal has at least 2 of your 5 a day in every main meal when served with two sides, ensuring balanced options for kids.
Beefeater has 25 vegetarian main menu items, and the average price of a children’s meal is £5.74.
2. The Lounges – Family-Friendly Score: 7.34/10
The Lounges café bars combine traditional British pub dining with a cafe-style setting, with 162 locations across the UK.
One of the best family-friendly restaurants we looked at, The Lounges has 26 children’s menu items, all designed to be simple meals to suit the appetite of most children. Soft drinks are served on the children’s menu, however, healthier drinks are available and every kid’s meal comes with a free snack pot with hummus, breadsticks and carrots.
Better than most chain restaurants we looked at, there are 61 vegetarian options on The Lounges’ regular menu.
The worst UK chain restaurants for family dining
1. Burger King – Family-Friendly Score: 1.95/10
One of the leading fast-food chains in the world, Burger King’s success is undeniable. With restaurants in over 100 countries globally, Burger King is a firm favourite burger chain among many.
When it comes to being family-friendly, Burger King scores the lowest out of all major UK chain restaurants. The ‘King Jr.’ menu has just four food items, including two burgers and two nugget meals, one of which is a vegan option.
With no vegetables available on the children’s menu at Burger King, there are limited options for children to receive a balanced meal. Soft drinks, including Capri-Sun, are available with children’s meals. The regular menu at Burger King includes just seven vegetarian items, five of which are vegan, offering a more limited selection than most restaurants we looked at.
The average meal price for a children’s main at Burger King is more economical than most chain restaurants, at £3.04.
2. McDonald’s – Family-Friendly Score: 2.27/10
One of the world’s best-loved fast-food restaurants, McDonald’s is also one of the worst in the UK for family dining. Famous for its Big Macs and french fries, the US-based chain has over 1,270 UK locations.
The McDonald’s children’s menu has just five main items, consisting of two burger options, a fish-based meal and a vegan option.
Happy Meals come with no vegetable sides, however, can be ordered with a fruit bag as an alternative to fries. Happy Meals can be ordered with milk, juice or water and also come with a soft drink option of a Robinsons Fruit Shoot. The regular McDonald’s menu has 20 vegetarian items, including four flavours of McFlurry, porridge, pancakes and two burgers.
However, McDonald’s might be the best option for families dining out in terms of budget, with the cheapest average cost of a children’s meal out of all chain restaurants we looked at, at £2.59.
3. Turtle Bay – Family-Friendly Score: 2.34/10
The Caribbean chain restaurant, Turtle Bay, with 42 locations across the United Kingdom, the restaurant is a hub of soul food and cocktails.
One of the worst chain restaurants in the UK for families dining out, Turtle Bay has just eight children’s menu items, far fewer than most chains we looked at. The children’s menu has two vegetarian main meal options, and a choice of sides including quinoa, salad and rice.
Children’s meals are not all served with a side of vegetables, however, there is an option for callaloo, made with taro leaves. Soft drinks are included with every children’s meal, and the main menu has just 18 vegetarian options.
The average cost of a children’s meal at Turtle Bay is £5.35, cheaper than most chains on our list.
We wanted to find out the best places in the UK for family dining, and discover which chain restaurants are the most family-friendly.
We used Tripadvisor to find the total number of restaurants in each of the 50 biggest UK towns and cities, and the number of restaurants tagged as ‘child-friendly’. We calculated the amount of child-friendly restaurants as a percentage of total restaurants in the city as of 10/3/22.
We looked at 33 of the most popular UK chain restaurants, using each restaurant’s official website to source information on the number of items on the children’s menu, the number of vegetarian items on the regular menu, whether or not each children’s meal is served with vegetables, the inclusion of soft drinks on children’s menus and the average price of a children’s meal.
For each factor, each chain was given a relative score out of 10 and an average of scores for each factor was calculated to find a ‘family-friendly score’, on which we based our ranking.