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Stir Crazy tests low-calorie menu items

Stir Crazy Fresh Asian Grill is testing a menu section devised by its restaurant chefs to accommodate guests counting their calories but still seeking flavor variety, the company said.

The “Crazy Good For You” lineup, which is in a four-unit test and is expected to be rolled out system-wide Oct. 7, includes five entrées, each containing between 480 calories and 610 calories.

Like the brand’s $8.88 “Crazy Features” value menu introduced at the depth of the recession, the more healthful menu was created in response to guests’ needs, said Greg Carey, president of Stir Crazy’s Chicago-based parent, Flat Out Crazy Restaurant Group.

“We’d been hearing for a while that our guests wanted some lower-calorie menu items,” Carey said. “Maybe it was because of health care reform or something else, but there’s been a lot of buzz in the industry about healthier food. We’ve tried as an organization to listen to our guests’ input and do something about it.”

Carey and the leadership at Flat Out Crazy, which also operates the Flat Top Grill chain, challenged the culinary teams at all of Stir Crazy’s 14 locations to develop entrées that not only looked and tasted good, but also could meet certain caloric criteria set by a nutritionist.

The results were five dishes from three different Stir Crazy restaurants:

• Malaysian Mango Chicken, 480 calories, and Malaysian Mango Salmon, 580 calories, created in the Lyndhurst, Ohio, location

• Seared Miso Sea Scallops, 500 calories, created in West Nyack, N.Y.

• Char-Grilled Shrimp with Fire-Roasted Vegetables, 530 calories, and Szechwan Peppercorn Encrusted Chicken, 610 calories, created in Estero, Fla.
The entrées, all priced between $11 and $12 each, fall in line with the rest of Stir Crazy’s entrée prices, Carey said.

He added that soliciting menu creations from employees in the field rather than working with a consulting chef benefited Stir Crazy in several ways.

“We had so much talent in the organization that we put it out to our field teams [to make this menu],” he said. “It gives our chefs and crew a real energetic upside to have an impact on the organization, and then the winning stores whose items get put on the menu get a $500 cash prize, so the managers can take their teams out. We find it to be very positive from a morale standpoint.”

Stir Crazy operates its casual-dining restaurants in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, New York and Florida.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].

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