If you have trouble remembering that it’s a new year, just turn on the TV. All the commercials for weight-loss programs, gyms and magic potions that promise to melt the pounds away are a sure sign that a new year has dawned and resolution time is in full swing.
It’s also time for restaurants to once again tout their contributions to Americans’ annual resolutions to reduce, including Chili’s, Panera and Applebee’s, which added new dishes to its under-550 menu, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. The list also includes eateries such as Dunkin’ Donuts that can easily be seen as an indulgent choice the rest of the year. This month, the coffee and doughnut chain is promoting limited-time additions to its DDSmart low-calorie breakfast menu and is teaming up with Runner’s World magazine to create 5K and 10K training programs.
Many of the announcements are similar to what the chains have done in years past, but there’s evidence that this year, some things are different. Instead of heading off half-cocked in a quest to shed last year’s extra pounds, an increasing number of consumers are taking a more holistic and long-term approach to healthier eating, according to Technomic. Half of consumers surveyed said they would like restaurants to offer healthy options and nearly half said they would likely order those items if they were on the menu.
Weight is still clearly an issue for many Americans, but the definition of what healthy food means to them is evolving, with local, natural and organic growing becoming more important. “Operators can leverage this growing interest in the health halo by developing the kinds of menu offerings that can underscore health without detracting from the taste perception,” says Technomic’s Darren Tristano.
Many chefs and restaurateurs are already there, according to The National Restaurant Association’s annual survey of trends for the new year, which is top-heavy with health and sustainability. In order, the top five trends for 2013 are:
- Locally sourced meats and seafood
- Locally grown produce
- Healthful kids’ meals
- Environmental sustainability as a culinary theme
- Children’s nutrition as a culinary theme
The trends illustrate consumers’ expanding definition of healthier dining, as does another recent survey from The Hartman Group that looks at snacking trends, as reported in Marketing Daily. According to the survey, consumers have largely put an end to the debate over between-meal snacking — they’re eating more snacks than meals, with many saying they believe it’s healthier to replace the traditional three meals a day with smaller, more frequent snacks. And then, as if to remind us that our contradictory nature is what makes us human, the survey reveals that chips and soda were the snacks most frequently mentioned by respondents.
Is your restaurant marketing healthier fare in January? Are your guests ordering it? Tell us about it in the comments.