As 2015 comes to a close, restaurants are gearing up for a year of healthy profits in 2016. Analysts predict that health trends will continue to dominate in the restaurant industry as consumers increasingly look for better-for-you cuisine and transparency.
Is your brand positioned for success in this new landscape?
Now is the time to evaluate where your brand stands and where it can improve to not only meet customer expectations in the coming year, but exceed them — all for healthier customers and healthier profits. Use this checklist, assess your strengths and areas for improvement, and then get started to make 2016 your healthiest year ever.
This checklist is based on public health nutrition-related priorities and the overall benefit to the public.
1. Nutrition information
Upcoming menu labeling regulations, together with increasing demand for transparency, provide the urgency to make sure your brand has accurate nutrition information and training processes in place in 2016.
• Is your nutrition information accurate and up to date?
• Does it include identification of allergens and gluten?
• Does it include identification of additives and preservatives?
• Is your nutrition information provided to customers in an easy-to-access, easy-to-read, easy-to-apply format?
• Have your wait staff and management been trained in responding to customers’ nutrition-related questions and needs?
• Have your back-of-house teams been trained in processes and protocol to make sure they are preparing food according to the recipes from which the nutrition information is based?
2. Sodium reduction
About 3,000 restaurant locations across hundreds of nationwide brands are now required to display a sodium warning icon next to menu items containing 2,300 mg of sodium or more on menus and menu boards in New York City. This new regulation, passed by the New York City Board of Health, will likely spread to other regions because of the urgent public health priority to reduce overall sodium consumption in the U.S. So 2016 is the year to make sure your brand saves money and time and prevents the risk of disappointed customers by making sure that most, if not all, of your menu items contain well under 2,300 mg of sodium, the recommended daily limit. Healthy Dining research shows it’s possible.
3. Nutrient density and healthful cuisine
Customers are becoming increasingly savvy about nutrition and looking for the nutrient value in the calories they consume. “Healthy” is confusing to some, however, a recent meeting of top public health experts resulted in an “agree to agree” consensus on 11 healthful components for the American diet. In 2016, strive to offer more choices that emphasize healthful ingredients such as lean protein, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes and unsaturated fats.
• Do all menu choices include at least one serving of fruit and/or vegetables?
• Are all bread, pasta, pizza and rice choices available as a whole grain version? (e.g., whole grain bread, brown rice, etc.)
• What percent of your menu choices includes “good fats,” such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and olives?
• Do you use fresh herbs and spices?
• Is a selection of your menu choices approved by Healthy Dining’s dietitians and featured on HealthyDiningFinder?
• Do you purchase locally sourced, sustainable and organic ingredients whenever possible?
• Do you offer a selection of healthful beverages?
• Do you offer small portions and/or a selection of better-for-you desserts?
Kids' menus; special diets
4. Healthful kids’ menu choices
Our nation’s children are the first generation in two centuries projected to have shorter life spans than their parents, according to a 2005 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, because of poor eating habits and insufficient exercise. The restaurant industry can make a powerful impact by offering more healthful kids’ choices. Restaurants leading this effort are finding a positive impact in customer sentiment and overall profits.
• Do all kids’ menu choices include at least one serving of fruit and/or vegetables?
• Are all bread, pasta, pizza and rice choices available as a whole grain version?
• Are fried and high-calorie (750+ calories) choices limited or eliminated on your kids’ menu?
• Are sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages eliminated from kids’ menus?
• Are desserts small portions and/or prepared with healthful ingredients?
• Is your restaurant participating in the Kids LiveWell Program?
5. Meeting additional needs, requests and preferences
Does your restaurant offer a selection of:
• Meatless: Entrées that do not contain meat and emphasize plant-based proteins and vegetables
• Vegetarian: Validated to have no animal products
• Vegan: Validated to meet vegan criteria
• Made without gluten: Validated to be free of gluten-containing ingredients
• Gluten free: Back-of-house and front-of-house personnel are trained in gluten-free preparation, and your brand offers a selection of menu items that follow protocol to protect against cross contact
• Allergen disclosure: Your brand offer an easy-to-use and easy-to-access disclosure of allergens
• Allergen responsive: Your back-of-house and front-of-house personnel are trained in how to prepare for and serve customers with food allergies