Healthy menu options can help eliminate veto votes from guests

Healthy menu options can help eliminate veto votes from guests

ORLANDO Fla. —Diners always say they want more healthful options, but many restaurateurs observe that when they put more healthful items on their menus, few people actually buy them.

The situation may be vexing, but healthful items do benefit operators—even if those items appear only to be dead weight taking up valuable space on the menu board, said Warren Solochek, vice president of client development for the NPD Group, a Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research firm. Solochek, who spoke during a breakout session at the recent Chain Operators Exchange 2009 here, suggested that perhaps it is important to give the the option of acting healthfully, even if they are really interested in flavor. —Diners always say they want more healthful options, but many restaurateurs observe that when they put more healthful items on their menus, few people actually buy them.

“When people go to restaurants, the No. 1 driver is ‘the food tastes good,’” said Solochek during the session, entitled “Growth of ‘healthy’ offerings at restaurants: Does it pay off for operators?” —Diners always say they want more healthful options, but many restaurateurs observe that when they put more healthful items on their menus, few people actually buy them.

But that’s not to say healthful offerings don’t matter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rates of obesity in the United States have grown at an alarming rate since 1991. Still, Americans in general are not concerned with losing weight, and fewer adults report that they are dieting, he reported. Instead of dieting and eating less, people are concentrating on eating more so-called “better for you” foods. —Diners always say they want more healthful options, but many restaurateurs observe that when they put more healthful items on their menus, few people actually buy them.

These trends point to more government regulation in the future, he said. —Diners always say they want more healthful options, but many restaurateurs observe that when they put more healthful items on their menus, few people actually buy them.

“If we will not take care of ourselves, the government will do it for us,” Solochek said, illustrating the point with a list of municipalities outlawing trans fats or requiring on-menu calorie disclosure. —Diners always say they want more healthful options, but many restaurateurs observe that when they put more healthful items on their menus, few people actually buy them.

“Yes, the law was passed,” Solochek said. “But guess what? People are still eating what they want when they go out. People are willing to try to be healthier at home. Not so much at restaurants.” —Diners always say they want more healthful options, but many restaurateurs observe that when they put more healthful items on their menus, few people actually buy them.

An NPD survey of 4,100 adults and teens revealed that only one in 10 guests is seeking a healthful meal at restaurants. NPD also found that healthful options are more important at quick-service restaurants than at full-service ones. —Diners always say they want more healthful options, but many restaurateurs observe that when they put more healthful items on their menus, few people actually buy them.

But even if most guests do not order the more healthful items, Solochek argued that they are important to offer because they can open concepts up for consideration from guests and eliminate the “veto factor,” wherein a party will decide not go somewhere if one of them can’t find what he or she is looking for. —Diners always say they want more healthful options, but many restaurateurs observe that when they put more healthful items on their menus, few people actually buy them.

“If I am thinking of eating healthy, and you didn’t have a healthful option, I wouldn’t consider you,” Solochek said. “If you do have a healthy option, you’re on my radar, whether I choose to order that item or not.” —Diners always say they want more healthful options, but many restaurateurs observe that when they put more healthful items on their menus, few people actually buy them.

For example, after McDonald’s [3] introduced salads, it saw an increase in visits by women and people older than 55, Solochek said. What was important was that there was a more healthful product they could have ordered if they had wanted to. —Diners always say they want more healthful options, but many restaurateurs observe that when they put more healthful items on their menus, few people actually buy them.

Smaller portions also can benefit operators, as they are perceived as both more healthful and, when priced less than bigger portions, viewed as a value, Solochek said. —Diners always say they want more healthful options, but many restaurateurs observe that when they put more healthful items on their menus, few people actually buy them.

When marketing to children, parents are an important veto factor for operators to consider, he noted. —Diners always say they want more healthful options, but many restaurateurs observe that when they put more healthful items on their menus, few people actually buy them.

Burger King’s [4] launch of Apple Fries opened the door for moms to more happily frequent the chain, he said. Subway offers a direct comparison of the nutritional information of its kids’ meals to those of competitors on its website. —Diners always say they want more healthful options, but many restaurateurs observe that when they put more healthful items on their menus, few people actually buy them.

“If you’re targeting kids, you’re really targeting moms,” Solochek said. —Diners always say they want more healthful options, but many restaurateurs observe that when they put more healthful items on their menus, few people actually buy them.