Voice of the Restaurant Industry
Losing it in 2008
Reprinted from TRN Janury 2008
Trying to write this column for the January issue I had the choice to look back and reflect on 2007 or look forward to 2008. The past cannot be changed no matter how much we would like to, so I guess the choice is look forward with the knowledge of the past as a guidepost.
Sometimes a topic for this column just shows up. I was having breakfast at a pancake restaurant in Georgia recently as a husband and wife were being ushered to their seats by the hostess. He was about six feet tall late fifties, early sixties and weighed at least three hundred pounds and was holding a cane in one hand and holding his wife’s shoulder with his left hand as she walked ahead of him. At that moment I made my 2008 resolution which is the same one I make every year, lose weight before it’s too late.
There was a story going around for a day or so that carrying twenty-five extra pounds is actually good for you. I sometimes feel like Woody Allen in the movie Sleeper when he wakes up a hundred years in the future and finds that all of the things that were touted as bad for you are now good for you. If you think carrying fifteen pounds extra is good for you try carrying a bowling ball around with you all day and see how you feel.
Restaurants are bearing some of the responsibility for the epidemic of obesity in this country. Cities like New York have banned trans fat from restaurants with an amendment mandating the phase out of all trans fat in all New York City restaurants by July 1, 2008. Other cities have followed suit. Restaurant chains have been promoting themselves as leaders in the field by eliminating trans fat from their menu items and beginning to serve healthier food options. Hurray, I applaud you but I also absolve you from some of the responsibility. The general public has the choice as to what they decide to eat.
Educating the consumer is a big factor in the challenge of beating the obesity epidemic. When the customer realizes the choices he or she is making are not healthy and will lead to heart disease, diabetes, joint problems and a possible early death, they will demand better options from our industry without the government mandating it.
www.bantransfats.com is a website about banning trans fats in our foods and has a very good explanation of the different types of fats and how they are used and made. There are four kinds of fats: monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, saturated fat, and trans fat. Monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat are the "good" fats. It is generally accepted that consumption of saturated fat should be kept low, especially for adults. Trans fat (which means trans fatty acids) is the worst kind of fat, far worse than saturated fat.
Partial hydrogenation is an industrial process used to make a perfectly good oil, such as soybean oil, into a perfectly bad oil. Partially hydrogenated oils are commonly found in processed foods like commercial baked products such as cookies, cakes and crackers, and even in bread. They are also used as cooking oils (called "liquid shortening") for frying in restaurants.
The process is used to make an oil more solid; provide longer shelf-life in baked products; provide longer fry-life for cooking oils, and provide a certain kind of texture or "mouthfeel." The big problem is that partially hydrogenated oil is laden with lethal trans fat. It is only the trans fat created by the partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils that should be eliminated completely from your diet, according to the website.
To summarize, government regulations, education of the consumer and an awareness by the restaurant industry to the afore mentioned changes, will drive the marketplace to offer healthier food choices in 2008. The customer still has the final choice to eat that triple burger covered with cheese, bacon and mayo, along with a jumbo portion of fries, washed down with a king sized drink. It is good business to serve healthier alternatives. A healthier customer will live longer and therefore spend more and increase your profit over a longer period of time. Time for my lunch. Let’s see, what shall I order?