Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend a brilliant presentation at the Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo in San Diego about creative solutions for developing healthy menus. I have to be honest with you and admit that one of my close colleagues was one of the co-presenters, and I may have had a hand in some of the content, but all the same BRILLIANT. I thought that for this week’s blog I would share a few points from the presentation with you.

Let’s start with some facts:

• A recent Technomic survey conducted in New York City where menu labeling bills have already been enacted found that 82% of those surveyed said that calorie disclosure is affecting what they order.
• The same survey reported that 60% said that calorie information is affecting where they visit.
• The University of Missouri found that customers were willing to pay up to $2 more per menu item if they were deemed healthy items.
• The NRA’s 2009 industry forecast sated that 3 in 4 adults are watching what they eat.

What am I getting at here? Simply that there is a market and proven demand for healthier options on the menu. Here are some ideas that I came up with for healthier options to offer your diners:

1.) The “lite” menu – you don’t need to change your entire menu to be health themed; just maybe offer a few healthy items with stated nutrition information for those who care to look for and choose “lighter options”.
2.) The Split – Encourage dieting diners to share items like appetizers and desserts. You can list calories for split portions so long as you also include the number of servings per portion.
3.) Leftovers – Have your servers offer to package half of the served portion to go before serving it to the guest. That way calorie conscious customers cut their calories in half and have a second meal for later (maybe they bring it to work for lunch the next day and tell all their coworkers how great it is).
4.) Offer Suggestions – Have healthy suggestions for special orders available. i.e. half the amount of salad dressing, no cheese, half side items and extra greens, ..etc. You can train your wait staff to make these suggestions or offer them in additional literature or on the website.

Offering your guests options empowers them to dine within their comfort criteria without asking restaurants to reinvent the wheel. Accommodation of any special requests leaves diners with a sense of security from their hosts and an appreciation for their service offerings.

What are some other service offerings that empower your guests to make them feel taken care of?

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Tags: healthy, menus, nutriton, options, restaurant

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Comment by Mark on October 8, 2009 at 12:02pm
Great post, Alyson. There's a good article on msnbc.com today discussing how menu calrie counts ar ealtering the choices people make. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33194730/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/

In my opinion, this is a step in the right direction - people can be more responsible for their own choices if they are empowered with information.

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