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Published 10.14.2016

Ring in the New Year With Healthy Menu Concepts to Drive Business

While healthy eating often falters during the holidays, Americans use the start of the New Year to implement healthy habits, starting with their diet.1 Motivated with optimistic resolutions to eat healthy and lose weight, consumers are eager to embrace their new goals. Use consumers’ New Year motivations to promote your establishment’s healthy offerings and help drive traffic to your organization. In order to attract customers and increase profits, it is essential to understand what motivates your customers to eat healthfully and what healthy descriptors are most appealing to them.2

“As Americans adopt a more holistic approach to their diets, they expect clarity from foodservice establishments, specifically by making healthy items easily identifiable and including more nutritional claims on menus. At the same time, many consumers view dining out as a way to indulge,” said Caleb Bryant, foodservice analyst at Mintel.3

The challenge is to create great tasting, good-for-you food and get people to think they’re indulging without the negative side effects of less nutritional food options. Instead of designating one corner of the menu to healthy items, which is often overlooked, integrate healthier items throughout the menu and leverage the power of description. Avoid using the term “healthy”4 and instead use terms that suggest transparency such as “farm-fresh,” “natural” and “free-from.” One study shows that consumers perceive “free-from” foods to be healthier.5 For example, more than 60% of consumers say “natural” meat is healthier and 73% specifically say that meat without antibiotics is healthier.6 In fact, a survey reports that foods labeled as containing “no antibiotics” and “high protein” are among the most profitable descriptors.2

Using descriptive terms that describe the preparation of a dish is another way to elevate the appeal of a healthy dish. For example, terms such as “charred,” “slow-braised,” “flame-grilled” and “slow-smoked” grew fast on menus in the past year, joining preparation methods like “grilled” and “roasted”, which have already become commonplace on many menus. Last year, the chain Pollo Tropical included “flame-grilled citrus chicken” in a number of light menu items, while the Baby Kale and Farro Salad at Cosi featured “charred tomato vinaigrette” for a salad that was “full of flavor.”7

Superfoods are trending with 77% of consumers acknowledging they are aware of them and 33% say the term helps them differentiate and select healthy foods.7 At the Superfood Cafe, in Santa Monica, Calif., the entire menu is focused on ingredients like acai, goji berries, hemp and chia seeds and kale, while The Cheesecake Factory added a “Superfoods” section to its menu last summer with options like a “Super Antioxidant Salad” featuring spinach, kale, avocado, blueberries, sunflower seeds and almonds.7 With the popularity of superfood increasing, take advantage of seasonal superfoods like beets, dark leafy greens and cranberries that can be prepared in countless ways from juicing to roasting. 

While many consumers want to eat healthy, some feel they don’t have the time. A recent survey reported that 43% of Americans agree that living a modern lifestyle makes it very difficult to be healthy.8 Turn customers’ desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle while balancing all of life’s other priorities into an opportunity to expand sales by offering convenient to-go and takeout options. Let your customers know that healthy doesn’t have to be sacrificed. Integrate technology like online ordering services to make it even more convenient for your customers. Social media and mobile marketing can also be used to share daily specials and promotions, while remaining engaged with consumers. 

Ring in the New Year with healthy menu concepts to attract new customers, encourage repeat visits and drive sales.

Consumers are looking for guidance when they dine out; understanding what is on trend and what your customers desire, you can provide the best experience for your patrons. With 70% of consumers willing to pay more for healthy foods and ingredients, you can increase profits along the way.7

1 Huffington Post, “5 Reasons Eating Healthier Should Be At The Top of Your New Year’s Resolution List,” 12/16/15

2 Mintel, “Healthy Dining Trends,” March 2016

3 Meat + Poultry, “Menus Missing Healthy Insights: Mintel,” 4/11/16

4 Nation’s Restaurant News, “Heathful food concepts bust traditional service models” 10/7/15

5 Restaurant Hospitality, “New Study: Consumers seeking” free-from” foods” 9/4/15

6 Technomic, “Consumers Want Food Additives Subtracted from Menus, Finds Technomic’s Consumer4Sight,” 6/24/15

7 SmartBrief, “A New Way To Navigate Healthy: How to Capture Today’s Healthy Consumer,” 3/14/16

8 Mintel, “43% of Americans Find it Difficult to be Healthy as Part of the American Lifestyle,” 1/27/16




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