The Mediterranean diet is receiving rave reviews from respected health organizations and nutrition advocates. I like to refer to it as a way of eating and not a diet, because it really emphasizes healthful eating and a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods. Recent research  from the Mayo clinic has shown that the Mediterranean diet has some great short- and long-term health benefits. In fact, a large research study following more than 1.5 million adults showed that a Mediterranean diet was associated with reduced risks of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
Zoës Kitchen’s vice president of marketing Rachel Phillips-Luther answered questions about the Mediterranean diet and how it fits with the chain’s philosophy.
I know Zoës is very innovative in focusing on the Mediterranean way of eating in all that you do, so tell us about that.
What makes the Mediterranean diet so great is that it emphasizes simple and fresh ingredients that are full of flavor, and at Zoës Kitchen we do just that. We deliver goodness to our customers by providing nutritious, high-quality, made-from-scratch menu items that make them feel great from the inside out. Our menu items consist of an abundance of fresh produce and lean proteins that are predominantly preservative and additive free. Therefore, we feel it’s not about restriction, but instead bringing back the enjoyment of eating.
We recently introduced guests to Live Mediterranean, [an initiative] to help guests understand all the ways you can incorporate Mediterranean traditions in life. Specifically, we’re sharing how this can be beneficial to health and general wellness. And although our focus is on food, we took it a bit farther and leaned on four pillars that celebrate rich Mediterranean traditions.
Tell us about the four pillars and how they are important to your guests.
The four pillars are Eat, Cook, Connect and Live. Eat focuses on the tasty, fresh foods that Zoës serves so that our guests can feel naturally their best. [For] Cook, we provide our guests with great recipes, which can be found on our website. … Additionally, our Fresh Takes make it easy for families to pick up ingredients at Zoës Kitchen, prepared from scratch in our kitchen, and then put the meal together at home. The third pillar is Connect, which is all about gathering around the table and celebrating the meal with family and friends. Our founder [Zoë Cassimus] believes that shared meals build a sense of unity and tradition, and we want to share that with our guests. … Live encourages and reminds people to live life to the fullest. Enjoy every moment and make choices that support an active lifestyle, while enjoying good, quality foods made with fresh and wholesome ingredients.
It’s refreshing to know that there are alternatives to the hurried American way of life. How do your guests respond to your four pillars?
When they eat at Zoës Kitchen they say, “I love how I feel when I eat here.” They feel good when they leave because they made a choice that is light, fresh and real, and in addition, they fuel their bodies with all the right wholesome ingredients. We create an emotional connection that goes beyond enjoying great food, and from what they share with us, we know we are making a difference in their lives.
Tell us about your guests.
Our brand delivers on our customers’ desire for freshly prepared food, convenience, unique and high-quality experiences, and their passion for life. So while our guests are varied, we find that almost 70 percent are women and many identify with being called “mom.” They are busy women and families, and they aspire to be their best and enjoy all life offers, including raising their families in the best possible manner and feeding them the right things. They enjoy dining at a table in the restaurant, choose Fresh Takes items from the cooler to prepare at home or order one of our Mediterranean family meals and celebrate “we time” around their kitchen table. It gives them back the time they crave to spend engaging with the ones they love. We also find our guests are very appreciative that we don’t have microwaves or fryers at Zoës.
What are some of your best-sellers?
We launched the Quinoa Salad about a year ago, and our guests love it. Our Chicken Kabobs are another favorite. … Our guests also really like the orzo-tabouli salad. It has baby spinach, mixed greens, tomatoes, feta cheese and lemon vinaigrette. And, of course, the Pita Sandwiches are guests’ favorites. We prepare everything from scratch, so we can customize meals and offer gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian items.
How about your kids’ menu?
We have a varied kids’ menu, although we see a lot of families order several items from our core menu and share them. Kids love the Hummus & Pita, Quinoa Salad and kabobs. I’m a mom of four, and it makes me happy and excited to see that parents are rising to the challenge and forming healthy habits when their kids are young.
Yes, it is super helpful for moms, but also anyone that craves convenient, wholesome meals at a compelling value. This is more than a trend — people are looking to become their best, and this is why we are excited to partner with Healthy Dining  and Kids LiveWell . We share the same mission of encouraging people to live a healthier lifestyle, eating well and nourishing your body for good health.
In addition to being a restaurant where people can feel good about eating, our guests really appreciate that every item is made to order, and that makes it easier for those with food allergies. We also do not have any nut products — that is a conscious decision so that we can serve those with nut allergies as well.
That is great; the number of children with nut allergies has tripled in the last 10 years, so I really admire Zoës for meeting the needs of those who find dining out nearly impossible. We are thrilled to have you as a partner on HealthyDiningFinder .