In Calorie Counts on Menus, FDA Regulations, Menu labeling, Nutritional Information, Restaurant Menus

Placing calorie counts on restaurant menus causes the customer to order healthier menu items. Does your restaurant menu have enough variety?

Creating a More Health Conscious Customer

According to a new release by Fox Business News, placing calorie counts on your restaurant menu actually changes the way that your customers order. It looks like they’re ordering healthier options and reducing their caloric intake — which was the intention of the regulation issued by the FDA stating that fast food chain restaurants as well as sit-down restaurants with more than 20 locations ( as well as other eateries) must place calorie information next to their menu items on their restaurant menus and menu boards

While this is well and good for public health what does this mean for you, the restauranteur? If your diners are ordering healthier options, do you have enough calorie friendly fare to offer them? If you’ve been reading our articles lately, you’ll quickly see that the cottage cheese and fruit plate isn’t going to cut it. Consumers are demanding more nutrition information than ever and they don’t stop there, they’re looking for variety and foods that serve a purpose to actively improve their health. 

So what is a restaurant owner to do? How do you offer options for these calorie conscious consumers and how do you get on board with this growing trend of functional foods? What if you’re a restaurant with under 20 locations, does this still apply? 

In short, the trends apply to all who participate in this delicious industry. And there is plenty to be done to appeal to your calorie conscious customer while offering them everything in the healthier options they’re looking for: variety, flavor and functionality. This winning trifecta will ensure you aren’t only on trend, but ahead of it. 

Overwhelmed? Don’t be. We got you covered. Lucky you, we’ll cover a few options here and also get you in touch with a dietitian that handles this type of thing. Let’s begin. 

Functional Flavor Through Healthier Fats

Chances are, if you’re even a little successful, you’ve mastered the ability to infuse flavor into your dishes. Flavor components come in primarily from fat sources, sugar and salt. And the winning combination are all 3 playing a role in a single dish to hit every part of the palate. 

When it comes to making the food choices on your restaurant menu have fewer calories while maintaining that flavor profile, you have to get functional. 

Butter, for one, has been hailed as the go-to item for flavor boosting. But there are a plethora of other fats that are not saturated and artery clogging that can still lend delicious flavor to your menu items. Consider, for example, exchanging the butter in the base of your pan for a garlic-infused olive oil. 

Olive oil, a monounsaturated fatty acid, contributes to heart health while garlic is known for it’s antioxidant properties. And in the words of Emeril — BAM! You just got functional. Essentially, what these consumers are looking for are foods that improve the state of their health. This way, they aren’t just eating out, they’re progressing. 

At this point I’m sure you’re wondering at this point about the “fewer calories” part of revising your restaurant menu. Swapping a fat for a better fat and getting functional is one thing, but what about the calorie count part of menu labeling? Keep reading.

Creating Smart Portions by Increasing Fiber

Whole Grains, another functional food, offer not only flavor but fiber to a menu item recipe. When you use a functional food like whole grain pasta in place of a pasta that is refined or white flour based, customers do not require as large of a portion to become full. Why is that? 

Pictured here are rice grains before the outer coating or hull has been removed. This outer hull contains all of the nutrition and fiber to ramp up flavor and bring the feeling of fullness to your menu offerings without having to serve larger portions.

In refined flour-based products, the hull or the outer coating of the wheat has been removed. This outer-shell is what contributes the most nutrition and fiber. Fiber, once consumed, expands within the stomach and digestive system. This contributes to a feeling of satiety or fullness much faster than it’s refined counterpart– and it’s more flavorful to boot. The outer hull of whole grains are nutritious, fibrous and lend a nutty like sweetness to any dish. By making a quick swap like this, you’ve just offered your customer functionality, a reduced number of calories and more flavor. 

Adding Variety by Collaborating with a Registered Dietitian

This can be the trickiest part of the re-calibration of your restaurant menu, but it doesn’t have to be. If you review your current menu items, chances are, you can begin to swap out individual ingredients for healthier options and create an entirely new category for the customer who is considering calorie counts.

But in the case this becomes confusing or you just don’t have time to do the research, this is where a Registered Dietitian can come in handy. A dietitian is well-versed in all things nutrition while your chef is trained on everything culinary. With this winning combo, there’s no such things as too many cooks in the kitchen. Matter of fact, many restaurants are opting to hire an in-house dietitian in order to address customer concerns, offer nutrition information and help with the changes on their restaurant menus that lower calorie counts while maintaining flavor and functionality. 

If a staff R.D. is not within your budget, we may have an option that’s appealing. At MenuCalc, we offer the combination of menu-labeling software with the option of utilizing our in-house dietitian to collaborate on menu item changes. This allows for you to always remain on trend, reduce the total calories in your food items, and be up to date on your nutritional information offerings on your restaurant menu without breaking your budget. 

If you’re looking to offer your calorie conscious consumer the winning trifecta of fewer calories, functionality and variety, we’ve got the software and dietitian services you may have not known you needed. Contact us today. 

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