Friendly's, Fleming's debut low-cal items

A growing number of restaurant operators are tapping into the health trend by offering customers a variety of both low-calorie food and beverage options.

Friendly’s, the Wilbraham, Mass.-based, 506-unit family-dining chain, just debuted a 555-calorie menu as a limited time offer through Feb. 27.

Meanwhile, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, based in Tampa, Fla., has entered the low-calorie cocktail fray with the launch of its 99-calorie Tickled Pink. The drink is part of its 5 for 6 ‘til 7 happy hour promotion, which features five cocktails for $6 until 7 p.m.

The cocktail combines vodka, orange juice, raspberries and Prosecco. The introduction of the new cocktail follows on the heels of T.G.I. Friday’s introduction of a low-calorie Skinny Margarita and Applebee’s two SkinnyBee cocktails with 120 or fewer calories each.

Chicago-based research firm Technomic has predicted that “skinny” or lower calorie drinks will be a key builder of bar sales in 2011.

Friendly’s, with the launch of eight LTO food items priced at $7.99 or less, has become the latest chain to offer a choice of health-focused menu selections.

The 550-calorie Caprese Chicken Sandwich contains grilled chicken breast with a light balsamic vinaigrette, tomatoes and onions. It is served on warm ciabatta with a side salad of mixed greens and fat-free Italian dressing.

The Half Turkey Club SuperMelt Sandwich & Garden Salad is prepared with turkey, melted cheese, bacon, tomato and Thousand Island dressing, and is served on grilled sourdough with a side salad of mixed greens with fat-free Italian dressing. It contains 420 calories.

The Half Tuna SuperMelt & Garden Salad is similar to the Half Turkey Club and weighs in at 460 calories.

The Mandarin Grilled Chicken Salad features ginger-glazed grilled chicken with mandarin oranges, sliced almonds and sesame seeds on salad greens with sweet ginger sesame dressing. It contains 520 calories.

The 530-calorie Chicken Ginger Stir Fry features ginger-glazed chicken sautéed with green and red peppers, broccoli, snap peas, carrots and red onions and served on rice pilaf and sprinkled sesame seeds.

Green and red peppers, snap peas, carrots, red onions, celery and baby portobello mushrooms are sautéed together in a ginger glaze for the Vegetable Ginger Stir Fry. The vegetables are served over rice pilaf garnished with sesame seeds and contains 410 calories.

An increasing number of operators are offering low-calorie menu choices to their customers.

Last month, quick-service pasta chain Fazoli’s added a line of “Mini Bakes” that each contain 400 or fewer calories. Applebee’s recently added two new items to its under-550-calorie menu, and Corner Bakery Café extended its “100 under 600” program, which showcases more than 100 combinations of meals that each contain under 600 calories.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]