Skip navigation

BJ’s the latest to go low-cal

Casual-dining chain joins several rivals in offering dishes under 600 calories

BJ’s Restaurants Inc. has joined the growing number of casual-dining chains offering menu items under 600 calories.

With a federal menu-labeling mandate pending, the Huntington Beach, Calif.-based chain this week rolled out a line of six Enlightened Entrees, which each contain no more than 575 calories and priced between $6.95 and $10.95.

Wayne Jones, BJ’s executive vice president and chief restaurant operations officer, told securities analysts April 20 that the new menu items were designed to offer “more variety and options” and drive traffic, rather than a response to menu labeling.

He noted that BJ’s last year tested customer reaction to the posting of calorie counts in certain markets, but the chain saw no material shift in the menu mix or any change in check averages.

Designated lower-calorie offerings have become increasingly common among casual-dining and family-dining players.

The Wilbraham, Mass.-based Friendly’s chain debuted an under 555-calorie menu as a limited-time offer in February, and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, based in Tampa, Fla., has added lower-calorie cocktails to its bar menu. Lenexa, Kan.-based Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar, meanwhile, has cited its under-550-calorie menu as a sales driver.

And last week, Los Angeles-based California Pizza Kitchen also said its new summer menu would focus more on health and wellness, including new items under 600 calories.

At BJ’s, which is known for its deep-dish pizzas and craft beers on draft, the six Enlightened Entrees include:

-- Chicken a la fresca, featuring marinated chicken breast grilled and served over rice pilaf with a ratatouille-style mix of zucchini, mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes, drizzled with a light Dijon-tarragon jus and garnished with arugula tossed in balsamic vinaigrette.

-- Oven-roasted Creole tilapia topped with a tomato-olive tapanade and served with rice pilaf, baby greens tossed with balsamic vinaigrette and shredded carrots, red onions, cucumbers and tomatoes.

-- Grilled Maui-glazed pork chop in a sweet and tangy sauce served with oven-roasted potatoes, steamed green beans and topped with grilled sweet red onions.

-- Mediterranean vegetable pasta, featuring rotini noodles tossed with roasted vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes, capers and kalamata olives mixed with a light vegetable broth and topped with pine nuts, fresh basil, Parmesan cheese and parsley.

-- Half-Flatbread and salad:  A half portion of one of BJ's flatbread pizzas served with mixed baby greens tossed in balsamic vinaigrette with shredded carrots, red onions, cucumbers and tomatoes

The Enlightened line is accompanied by new “skinny” cocktails that contain under 130 calories each. Included is a Skinny ‘Rita, a “Guilt-Free” Cosmo and a Mojito Lite.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.