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Don't Wait Around For the Low-Carb Craze to Fade

I must admit that I was caught a bit off guard by top notch restaurateurs who said in our annual State of the Industry Forecast last month that the Atkin's craze or, at least some form of it, is not going away. Perhaps it's because I'm jaded and have seen so many food-related fads come and go over the years. Of course, the verdict still remains to be seen. But when people like concept king Rich Melman and ace consultant Clark Wolf say that the low-carb, high-protein diet is here to stay, you must take notice.

Another wake-up call surfaced late last month from a company called Opinion Dynamics Corp., which recently completed one of the largest public opinion surveys ever on low-carb dieting. The company, headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., says its survey of 1800 U.S. adults shows that the low-carb revolution is not a passing fad.

According to its findings, 11 percent of the public-—that's 24 million people—are currently on a lowcarb diet. Twenty percent said they have tried a lowcarb diet, such as Atkins or South Beach, in the last two years. The research also found that upper income people (over $75,000) between the ages of 46 and 64 are more likely to try low-carb diets.

This is an important group of people because they have the most disposable income and are likely your best and most frequent customers. Melman, who operates dozens of interesting restaurant concepts out of his Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You company, said in the industry forecast that he will renew his focus on this group in the year ahead.

This group, of course, is the Baby Boomers, who have gotten older and now realize they're not immortal. Quite simply, they're being more careful about the type of foods they eat. By the way, of those surveyed who were not on the low-carb diet, 19 percent said they may likely go on one in the next two years.

Even if the low-carb craze does not last for years, there's clearly still plenty of wind in its sail. The good news is that many of those surveyed who are on the diet said they were more likely to adhere to it at home as opposed to restaurants. And only 38 percent of low-carb advocates said it's very or somewhat important that a restaurant advertise low-carb offerings when choosing a restaurant.

Nevertheless, all of this suggests that if you, as a restaurateur, are not paying attention to this lowcarb revolution, you're making a mistake. Most likely, you have plenty of low-carb offerings on your menu. It's a matter of training your service staff to help guide your customers in the direction they wish to go. And, the best news of all is that most of you full-service pros have been doing that from day one.

Burger Flipper. For decades, the media has used the term, burger flipper, as the benchmark for the lowest end of minimum wage drudgery. This has driven the NRA crazy, and it's been doing every thing it can to stop the defamation. It seems to be working.

Bob Krummert, the senior editor here at RH, has noticed recently that the media has turned to another benchmark: Greeter at Wal-Mart. If it sticks, take a bow NRA, and our condolences to you Wal-Mart.

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