By highlighting a few calorie-conscious menu items, and maybe adding some skinny cocktails to your lineup, you probably think you’re serving guests who carefully scrutinize every bite or sip that passes their lips. But a recent study suggests that health-conscious guests are more likely to ignore those efforts and instead simply choose smaller portions, skip extras like desserts and opt for (free) water over a high-margin adult beverage.
In the NPD Group study, “Healthy at Foodservice,” the most popular strategies for healthful diners included these:
• Have a salad as a meal: 39 percent
• No dessert or sweets: 38 percent
• No beverage or just have water: 37 percent
• Pick a healthier protein or meat: 28 percent
• Get a smaller portion: 23 percent
• No appetizer: 22 percent
• Don’t eat the whole thing: 19 percent
The study found that while half of adults claim they eat healthful foods “always” or most of the time at home, only 25 percent do so when dining out.
Another recent study by NPD Group found that consumers are making a conscious effort to live a healthier lifestyle and are looking for products made with less fats/oils, sodium and sweeteners. However, these attitudes have little influence on a diner’s choice of restaurant and menu item—with only a small percentage of consumers seeking nutritional information such as calories (20 percent) and fats/oils (13 percent). “Pick up a menu today at any popular family restaurant and you’ll see nutrition facts to meet the need of rising consumer awareness around healthier eating,” says Aron Levin, associate professor of marketing and director of the Marketing Research Partnership Program at Northern Kentucky University. “However in the moment of truth, consumers really don’t avoid the foods they say they will.”
NPD restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs says that “even with an increasingly number of restaurants offering healthier menu items or posting calories and other nutritional information, at the end of the day, consumers see dining out as a treat, an indulgence. Foodservice operators are in a challenging position trying to balance meeting their customers’ wants and needs, like any successful marketer should do, and meeting societal responsibilities. A first step is understanding healthy from the consumers’ perspective.”