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Menu watch: Less is more with calories

Menu watch: Less is more with calories

The owners of Chop’t, a 13-unit fast-casual salad chain operating in New York and Washington, D.C., see a marked spike in sales every January as would-be dieters try to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

Sales slip back to normal fairly quickly, however, and co-founder Tony Shure said most consumers seem to have forgotten about their resolutions by that most chocolaty of holidays on Feb. 14.

Still, several chains are seeking to help the resolve of the dieting public in the New Year. 

Fazoli’s, a 230-unit Italian quick-service chain based in Lexington, Ky., launched a limited-time line of pasta dishes with 400 or fewer calories. Bob Evans, a 569-unit family-dining chain based in Columbus, Ohio, enhanced its “Fit from the Farm” menu with a new breakfast that included cranberry multigrain sidecakes and fresh fruit, and 540-unit Caribou Coffee in Minneapolis, in introducing breakfast sandwiches, touted the fact that each of them — a veggie omelet, a chicken sausage and an egg white and turkey bacon — each had 310 or fewer calories.

Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar, the 1,990-unit casual-dining chain in Lenexa, Kan., didn’t seem merely to be tapping into the market of resolution makers when it recently beefed up its Weight Watchers menu, more than doubling the options, from two to five, with the addition of chipotle-lime chicken, steak and potato salad, and spicy pineapple-glazed shrimp and spinach.

Two of Applebee’s three new Weight Watchers items are spicy as well as low calorie. 

Spiciness is a polarizing factor in food that some customers love and will go out of their way to find. Others won’t go near anything with chiles, but that’s OK. They can order something else. 

Chili’s Grill & Bar, the 1,514-unit casual-dining chain based in Dallas, has a new “Wild or Mild” menu available for a limited time that underscores that fact by offering fiery and mellow versions of similar dishes — such as “Blazin’ Big Mouth Bites” of peppercorn-crusted mini-burgers with jalapeño mayonnaise, or, alternatively, sliders topped with apple wood smoked bacon, American cheese, sautéed onions and ranch dressing.

California Tortilla, based in Bethesda, Md., also spiced up its menu when it rolled out Korean tacos at its 37 fast-casual units, jumping on a craze that started with the Kogi Korean barbecue truck in Los Angeles.

Miami-based Burger King played the spicy card as well with its first-ever stuffed sandwich. The new BK Stuffed Steakhouse Burger is filled with jalapeño cheddar. It’s available nationwide through mid-February for a suggested $3.99.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]

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