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New fast casuals can’t live on ‘healthy’ alone

herban quality eats tray

People say they want healthy food at restaurants. Liars.

It’s true that more consumers say they care about the healthfulness of the food when they eat out. But that still doesn’t translate into purchases of all the healthy options that restaurants are promoting.

So what makes a new crop of healthy concepts think they have a prayer?

Using the build-your-own format, so guests can make a heart-healthy dish—or not—if they want, these new fast casuals are trying to tout healthy benefits while satisfying other consumer demands at the same time.

Wellness’ first

Herban Quality Eats debuted in December, featuring create-your-own plates and salads made from nutrient-rich, natural ingredients. The Philadelphia concepts says its menu is “inspired by home style cooking with a wholesome twist.” Customers choose a base (rice, kale or noodles), protein, two sides and a sauce, from options like steak from grass-fed beef, sweet-potato mash and walnut-coriander sauce. The restaurant also offers wellness workshops on “what healthy eating really means.”

Global inspiration

bolay bowl

Launched in February by Tim Gannon, co-founder of Outback Steakhouse, Bolay offers build-your-own superfood bowls with global influence and bold flavors. Customers can choose from bases like Peruvian quinoa, Basmati rice and gluten-free cilantro noodles, as well as toppings like Caribbean-spiced steak, ponzu tuna, balsamic mushrooms and broccoli with ginger-orange glaze. The Wellington, Fla., restaurant also offers cold-pressed juices, infused teas and local craft beer and wine.

Courting active lifestyles

gogogreens bowl

GoGoGreens opened its doors in December in Sullivan’s Island, S.C., serving build-your-own salads and signature toasts, bowls and lettuce rolls. Its aim is “offering food that nourishes your body, at a pace that fits your gogo lifestyle.” Salad options include a choice of greens; more than 35 add-ins like pepitas, roasted broccoli and blueberries; a selection of premium toppings such as lemon hummus and roasted shrimp; and more than a dozen housemade, gluten-free dressings. The restaurant sources as many local and organic ingredients as possible.

People who say they want healthy food aren’t really lying. They do want it, just not all the time. Enabling customization, adding bold flavors and promoting functional benefits may broaden healthy concepts’ appeal and allow customers to create a dish that suits their moods, tastes and lifestyles.

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