Friday, March 19, 2010

What the Others are Doing

I’m always thinking about different ways that restaurants can appeal to the ever growing crowd of health conscious diners. There’s the obvious salad with dressing on the side and grilled chicken breast or salmon filet; but good business, especially in the food industry comes from innovation. It also comes from what I call innovative reproduction (AKA taking ideas from others and doing it better). I found an article on health.com titled America’s Top 10 Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants and thought it may be a good source of such innovation. I’ll let you read the article for the restaurants themselves and the commentary about what makes them so healthyfuly appealing, but I’ll share with you what stuck out to me as excellent opportunities for innovation.

Whole Wheat/Grains – Mentioned six times in the list, and come to think of it I’ve been seeing a lot lately; pizza places offering whole wheat crust, Mexican restaurants offering whole wheat tortillas, now noodle houses offering whole grain pasta. Whole grains have been big in the retail food world for a long time, and now they’re the “it” thing in restaurants too.

Minis – Mentioned five times in the list. Portion control is a great way to cut calories. Not only are you saving money on food costs, but diners still get to enjoy some of their classic favorites, just in more health conscious sizes.

Black beans – Mentioned three times in the list. High in fiber and protein and low in fat and very filling; it’s a win-win-win ingredient.

Soup – Mentioned Twice in the list. Soup in big in the San Francisco financial district where I work. It’s cheap to make and loaded with flavor even when it’s not loaded with calories (although some can be).

Options – A lot of people were surprised by McDonald’s presence on the list, but when you think about it, they really do offer a lot of options to dieters. Sure they offer double quarter-pounders, but they have also come out with healthy snack wraps and low-fat salads, a lot more than a lot of other restaurants have undertaken.

Other frequently mentioned healthy menu concepts included organics, oven-roasting, chicken, build-you-owns, and fresh vegetables.

If you have been thinking about adding healthy items to your menu now is the time!

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