Health club owners know early January is prime time to sign up new members. Ditto for the backers of TV infomercials that peddle at-home exercise programs or various dieting schemes. Why? It’s the time when New Year’s resolutions to eat better and get fit are still fresh in potential customers’ minds. Now 91-unit restaurant chain Pollo Tropical is getting in on the action by offering patrons an easy way to eat healthfully twice a day, with all meals coming straight from the chain’s regular menu.
Dubbed the “21 Days to a New You Meal Plan,” the program does all the thinking for its participants. Whether patrons have resolved to shed some pounds in 2013 or just eat more healthfully, Florida-based Pollo Tropical is ready to help them out.
Its plan offers two meals a day, lunch and dinner, with items mixed and matched from the chain’s regular lineup of chicken, roast pork, soups, salads, sandwiches and side dishes.
Between them, each day’s meals are dietitian-designed to contain fewer than 1,000 calories, although a few go slightly over. The full 42-meal plan is available for download from the Pollo Tropical website.
Most of the meals feature chicken as the protein, but whoever thought up these meals wrung as much variety as possible from the available options. One key is that the plan suggests beverages, with bottled water, diet iced tea and diet sodas keeping calorie counts low.
For example, lunch on Day 5 consists of a guava BBQ pork sandwich, a Caesar salad and a Diet Pepsi. Dinner offers one boneless chicken breast, balsamic tomatoes, corn and bottled water. Combined, the two meals provide 970 calories and 65 grams of protein.
The program’s genius lies in its timing. The “21 Days to a New You Meal Plan” is right in sync with customers who have just convinced themselves it’s time to make some positive lifestyle changes. At no point in the year are potential participants more pre-sold on the idea of healthful eating than early January.
Also, the plan is offered during a month when, for reasons ranging from poor weather to holiday spending-related credit card debt, restaurant sales typically tail off. This program gets people into Pollo Tropical units multiple times, maybe even daily, ideally twice daily. The plan runs for 21 consecutive days, but isn’t tied to the calendar. Customers can start whenever they want.
Another key: Participation is a no-brainer; decisions about where to eat and what to order are already emade for the customer. Anyone interested can just plug in to the program and go with the flow.
There’s more to the Pollo Tropical program than just meals. It’s also designed to help participants deal with other areas of their lives.
“The plan outlines how to eat and have a balanced diet along with several helpful tips,” the company says in a statement. “'Ten Recommendations for Staying Healthy' highlights the importance of a well-balanced lifestyle, from fruits and vegetables to managing stress. ‘Ten Healthful Breakfast Ideas’ showcases breakfast tips ranging from cold cereal to ham & cheese sandwiches. Finally, ‘Ten Healthful Snack Ideas’ offers useful and nutritious snack tips — perfect for anyone on the go.”
The whole works is free to customers, who can sign up both in-store and online.
Could other restaurants offer something similar, or at least a version of it?
It might be tough for a single-unit operation to pull off, although a slimmed-down program that featured a nightly healthy eating “resolution special” in early January might gain some traction. But we can see multiconcept operators or perhaps a local restaurant association coming up with a January “Get Fit” program that combines the key elements of the Pollo Topical 21-day Meal Plan: no thinking involved, just show up and eat to fulfill that New Year’s resolution. It’s not too late to give it a try in 2013.