Skip for your supper

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Related tags: Farm frites, Smoking, Smoking ban, Playground, Cross keys

While many pubs are doing more to attract families to help cushion the impact of the smoking ban, few have gone so far as to introduce playground...

While many pubs are doing more to attract families to help cushion the impact of the smoking ban, few have gone so far as to introduce playground games.

However, the Cross Keys in Rowde, Wiltshire, marked Father's Day with a skipping contest. It was the first official children's event for a business which has decided to reinvent itself as a family pub, and which won a family makeover in a competition in The Publican​ sponsored by Kidzsmart.

Before too many pubs start planning hopscotch marathons and kiss-chase leagues, we should point out that the event at the Cross Keys was part of the nationwide Skip to It! campaign, launched by potato products specialist Farm Frites to support the Children's Heart Federation (CHF).

From Double Dutch competitions to skipping relays, both youngsters and grown-ups were invited to work up an appetite before lunch with some vigorous ropework. Those who managed 100 consecutive skips won a free dessert for their dads.

Among them was six-year-old birthday girl Britney Griffiths, who said: "It was really fun, and I'm really happy as I did 100 whole skips for my dad!"

The challenge was part of a drive by Farm Frites to highlight the benefits of looking after your heart - a difficult message to argue with. Money raised by Skip to It! events goes to the CHF, which also receives 10p for every product sold in Farm Frites' Natures Goodness range until September.

The charity is dedicated to helping children with congenital or acquired heart disease and their families. Laura Spencer, manager of the Cross Keys, says: "We wanted to raise awareness of the CHF and also get our children's events off the ground as part of our family-friendly makeover.

"We've always welcomed children, but in February, when we took the bull by the horns and went no-smoking, we decided to have the pub fully redecorated and have a change of direction."

The pub's aim was to ensure the smoking ban had a positive impact by encouraging more families to go out and socialise together. Things certainly didn't go to plan immediately.

"When we introduced the no-smoking policy, there was a definite drop-off in trade, which was very disappointing," says Laura. "But we are doing everything in our power to stimulate new interest with delicious, locally produced food and fun-packed family events.

"Rowde is quite a transient village when it comes to residents, but we know there are plenty of families in the area, as well as visitors passing through, who would really get a lot out of what we offer. They just need to know what we are doing." Chips that are good for youFamilies at the event were also invited to try out the Natures Goodness range of lower-fat potato products.

"We've asked customers what they think and the response has been 'they're good - they taste like chips', which is probably the biggest compliment they can give," says Laura.

"They taste just as good but are far healthier. Essentially, it gives people choice."Pub interested in emulating the Cross Keys by running a Skip to It! event should visit www.farmfrites.co.uk.

Those holding an event are in with a chance of winning £100 for playground equipment and a visit from the British Rope Skipping Association (BRSA) - the record-breaking skippers featured in the video for James Morrison's You Give Me Something.

Farm Frites spokesman Nadia Adrien said: "Skip to It! is the perfect, fun way for pubs to build on their family-friendly image, especially in light of the smoking ban, while promoting healthy living and raising money for the CHF."

  • Fancy skipping to it and sprucing up your play area this summer? To encourage pubs to hold a sponsored 'Skip to It' day, Farm Frites is giving away 15 customised kits, comprising five skipping ropes, promotional posters and healthy lifestyle fact sheets. For more information on holding an event and a factsheet visit www.farmfrites.co.uk. for a free kit email suzi@proactivecommunications.co.uk

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