It may be time to put your menu on a diet. A Hudson Institute study released in February on the performance of 21 U.S. restaurant chains revealed a pocket of prosperity in a shrinking industry coming from an unlikely place: lower-calorie meals. The research found that although the total number of meals served fell 1.6% from 2006 to 2011, servings of lower-calorie items grew 2.5%, while the number of higher-calorie servings fell 4.2%.
Chains that served a greater number of lower-calorie servings grew their same-store sales much faster from 2006 to 2011. Meanwhile, per-restaurant sales went down at chains whose servings of lower-calorie foods declined during that period.
Other new research on the consumer end backs up the findings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study this week that found that U.S. adults consumed 11.3% fewer calories in food from fast food restaurants in 2010 than in 2006.
What should restaurant operators do? According to a recent article in Forbes, rather than eliminate their popular high-calorie dishes, they should start by shifting their food portfolios toward the lower-calorie offerings that a growing number of customers now demand.
You can do this by offering popular high-calorie items in smaller portion sizes. Adopting healthier cooking oils like omega-9 sunflower blends that still yield tasty fried foods is another tactic. And operators should promote the lower-calorie items more prominently. The trick is not to make them look like diet fare.
Read the full story here.