Consumers are putting their health front and center when they go out to eat. Their desire for preservative-free, antibiotic-free, natural and organic ingredients is at an all-time high. Consumers also say that call-outs of foods being antibiotic-free, hormone-free/no hormones added and steroid-free are some of the most appealing health claims when it comes to choosing center-of-the-plate choices, according to Technomic’s 2018 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report.
Restaurants are wise to pay attention to what consumers want and should make changes to menus, be transparent and work with suppliers who supply those sought-after foods. Here are three ways how operators can transform their restaurants and recipes to meet consumers’ desire for clean, high-quality and healthy food and increase the appeal of those foods at the same time.
Sourcing and preparing antibiotic-free proteins
According to Technomic’s Healthy Eating report, 74% of consumers say they think natural food and beverages are slightly or much more healthy, while 73% say the same about unprocessed food and beverages and 72% say so about antibiotic-free food and beverages.
Operators who haven’t already made changes to include these items in recipes may consider working with suppliers to ensure they’re offering dishes with natural ingredients. Even if entire dishes aren’t made with natural ingredients, incorporating even a few natural ingredients into dishes can help meet consumer demands. For example, in 2004, Panera first introduced chicken raised without the use of antibiotics in its Strawberry Poppyseed Salad—and continued to add new items to their menu over the years. Fifteen years later, the chain offers at least 23 items that feature proteins raised without antibiotics after years of working with farmers, suppliers and industry experts to meet the new demand.
Many suppliers have been working, too, on ways reduce the amount of antibiotics they use on animals raised for human consumption. Take, for example, Tyson Foods, which has made a commitment to continuous improvement and has transitioned a focused set of products to No Antibiotics Ever (NAE). Tyson offers more than 90 NAE products in multiple forms, from fillets and tenders to ingredient chicken, perfect for salads and toppings.
By calling out claims of natural, and No Antibiotics Ever proteins, health-conscious consumers know exactly what to order. And for those on the fence, featuring these proteins in foods they know and love will draw them in.
Offering healthy kids menus
It follows that since consumers are conscious about what they’re eating, they’re also conscious of what their kids are eating. To make kids menu items healthier, it’s as easy as replacing beloved ingredients with upgraded, cleaner versions. For instance, upgrading standard chicken to NAE chicken and serving both grilled and fried chicken nugget options, or using whole grain pastas in macaroni and cheese. Restaurants can also consider adding zucchini noodles or cauliflower-based pizza crusts to kids menus. Some examples of restaurants that have worked on updating kids menus include Pollo Tropical, which offered a limited-time offer TropiChop Bowl with grilled chicken, rice and beans; and McDonald’s, which reformulated its popular Chicken McNuggets recipe to remove antibiotics and artificial ingredients.
By appealing to kids’ tastebuds while working to make kids menu items healthier, everyone wins—from kids to parents to restaurants.
It doesn’t matter if a majority of diners are coming in on vacation and are looking to indulge or are traveling for work and want to treat themselves—operators need to be open and honest with customers about food sourcing, ingredient lists, nutrition facts, allergy concerns and social and ecological impacts. Why? Because customers want to know.
Making healthier, high quality menu items more appealing simply comes down to appealing to consumers’ desires. Whether that means appealing to their demand for transparency or simply their demand for great-tasting foods, operators are well-positioned for the future by incorporating healthier, cleaner and less-processed options on their menus.
This post is sponsored by Tyson Foodservice-Lodging Team