No two diners are the same, but like any groups, different styles of diners may have similar nutrition needs during dining.  Here are some of the groups and trends that I have observed: 

 

The Business Lunch Crowd: 

 

  • Who they are:  If you operate in a metro area you know them well.  Smartly dressed, they either come in to grab a quick desk meal, or come in and sit down for a business lunch/meeting.  Whether in a group or on their own, one thing is for sure – they mean business. 

 

  • Likely Nutrition Requests:  This group probably eats lunch out most days of the week, and for this reason they are likely to be looking for healthier options. 

 

  • Offer Them:  Try salads and wraps, also consider custom options (see my post about Build-your-Owns).  These guys also value speed and convenience, so have plenty of grab and go items for the desk diners, and food that will come out quickly for those who only have an hour for a sit down lunch. 

 

Families with Kids:

 

  • Who They Are:  Families come in all shapes and sizes are usually hungry, and busy keeping children entertained.  They want their food to come out yesterday to keep hungry little ones from causing a scene.    

 

  • Likely Nutrition Requests:  Kids are much more likely to have food allergies than adults, so look out for special preparation requests.  While kids will want fun classics like grilled cheese and chicken fingers, parents may push healthier choices. 

 

  • Offer Them:  Make them both happy by offering healthier versions of classic kiddy meals.  Maybe grilled chicken fingers with dipping sauce, mini grilled cheese sandwiches cut into fun shapes on whole grain bread with a side of veggies, and fun fruit kabobs for a healthy dessert.  Also make sure that you have cross contamination prevention policies in place in case food allergies come up. 

 

Date Night:

 

  • Who They Are:  The pairs making googley eyes at each other over nice wine.  Or the first daters who giggle nervously at each other and avoid awkward silence at all costs.    

 

  • Likely Nutrition Requests:  Not many here, date night is generally a time to indulge and enjoy good food without worrying about diet.  Although she might order a salad on a first date. 

 

  • Offer Them:  Items to share: appetizers, finger foods, tapas…etc. 

 

 

Senior Diners: 

 

  • Who They Are:  A more mellow diner with time to spare.  They may not be in a hurry like other diners, but they will want things their way. 

 

  • Likely Nutrition Requests:  Seniors are likely more concerned with their health than the young darters, and may be looking for healthier options that are lower in fat and sodium.  The may also be looking for comfort foods that remind them of home cooking. 

 

  • Offer Them:  Classic flavors with a healthy twist.  Make sure to point out if you are using any low fat or low sodium items, the will appreciate it. 

 

By recognizing these types of diners and anticipating their needs, restaurant operators can design menus to maximize customer satisfaction and loyalty.  These stereotypes may not hold true for all diners, but it never hurts to be prepared.  

 

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Tags: date, diet, health, healthy, kids, nutrition, ordering, seniors, trends

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Comment by Martin Szalay on November 23, 2011 at 1:59pm

I have always said healthcare foodservice has got to be one of the most difficult disciplines out there when it comes to preparation, plating and transport.  

The ability to serve hundreds of unique meals in a timely manner is mind blowing to me.Each meal has to accommodate dietary restrictions, compensate for nutritional deficiencies, be acutely aware of known allergic reactions and even contraindications to prescribed medicines.  Even color, and texture play a role so that it aesthetically pleasing and palatable.

My company makes transport cabinets, warmers and refrigeration for Healthcare foodservice and I never realized how important all these factors were until I began dealing with more RD and foodservice professionals in hospitals and senior care centers.

I also believe overall, the quality of the food being delivered to patients, staff and visitors has improved vastly over the years.  But it is sure hard to shake that old "hospital food" stereotype. 

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