Contractor Bon Appetit rolls trans-fat-free menu

Contractor Bon Appetit rolls trans-fat-free menu

PALO ALTO, CALIF. Bon Appetit Management Co. [3] last month introduced a healthful-cooking initiative at its 400 accounts nationwide, featuring trans-fat-free foods, smaller portion sizes and low-fat entrées with fewer than 500 calories each. —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

The initiative touts the use of fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, and portion sizes based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid recommendations. Also, chicken and fish will be available daily at grill stations and at least one low-fat entrée will be served per meal period. The on-site feeder, a subsidiary of Charlotte, N.C.-based Compass Group North America [4], rolled out the program systemwide March 1 after a year of testing. —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

“The time was right to take an aggressive position on healthy cooking,” said Marc Zammit, Palo Alto-based Bon Appetit’s director of culinary development. “We’ve always been concerned about the well-being of our guests, what we’re putting in their bodies, but over the last few years we’ve noticed a wave of interest in nutrition.” —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

Zammit also noted that as the country’s expanding waistlines and related health complications push up health care costs, several of Bon Appetit’s clients had become interested in providing more healthful fare. In fact, some companies have expressed interest in subsidizing healthier foods and charging more for less healthful options, he said. —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

“There is increased concern about obesity, and corporations especially have become [interested] in the health of their employees as it relates to their health care costs,” Zammit said. As a result, he continued, they are more “interested in seeing us partner with them to serve healthier food.” —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

The most challenging aspect of the program, Zammit said, was removing the trans fat at all of Bon Appetit’s restaurants, particularly because of the difficulties involved in sourcing trans-fat-free baked goods. —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

“We have pushed our regional suppliers—whether they are small, local bakeries or big bagel makers—to go trans-fat-free,” he said. “Some distributors didn’t even know what trans fat was. But we even managed to find a good selection of trans-fat-free fries.” —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

At Cafe Bon Appetit in Chicago’s AT&T Corporate Center, which is open to the public, general manager Bill Langlois said customers appear to be happy with the new program, although there was some initial opposition to smaller portions. —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

“There was a little resistance in the beginning, but now everyone is pretty much used to it,” he said. “I think we were overportioning before anyway, so it’s good to scale back. We found that many of our guests were not finishing their food before. Now we’re serving between 2.5 ounces to 3 ounces of fries instead of 4 or 5, and instead of going with 4 ounces of protein, we’re now doing 3.25 ounces.” —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

Open for breakfast and lunch, the cafe feeds between 1,500 and 1,700 people daily. Langlois said the biggest seller is a roast turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread. A honey coleslaw, which is offered as an alternative to fries, also has been well-received, he added. —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

Langlois noted that the average check at lunch has remained about $7.25 despite reduced portion sizes. That’s because the cafe uses “a higher-quality meat product” that is devoid of antibiotics and growth hormones and costs “about $1 or $1.25 more a pound than what we’d get from normal suppliers.” —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

Roger Edens, Bon Appetit’s general manager at Whitman College, a liberal arts university in Walla Walla, Wash., with about 1,400 students, said the smaller portions are a hit despite the fact that college dining halls traditionally offer all-you-can-eat programs. —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

“The students still can have as much as they want, but initially they’re served an appropriate portion,” he said. “We follow the U.S. government’s food pyramid recommendations, which consists of 3 to 4 ounces of protein, a half-cup of whole grains and a whole cup of vegetables. So even though it’s all-you-can-eat, we’re pointing out to the students, through education and quite a bit of marketing, proper portion sizes and the health benefits of certain items.” —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

Edens said Whitman’s meal plan averages about $2,000 per semester per student and consists of approximately 160 meals available at three different dining halls and a retail cafe. —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

“This [healthy initiative] is something [students] definitely wanted,” he said. “They’ve been happy to see the low-fat options and, even though they hadn’t specifically asked for trans-fat-free items, they’re definitely applauding that. And they’ve even asked for smaller dessert portions.” —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

Zammit said one of the biggest challenges going forward is maintaining customers’ interest in the health-oriented options. To do that, he noted, Bon Appetit’s chefs would have to emphasize flavor. —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer

“We have to train chefs to understand that part of the new paradigm for healthy cooking is flavor,” he said. “It’s in the techniques, the spices and herbs we use and how we layer the flavors. They’re going to have to think outside the box of what is typically thought of as healthy, make it visually appealing and watch the fat intake.” —In an effort to meet customer demands and teach better nutrition habits, contract caterer