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Healthy Dining a Hard Sell, Study Says

Healthy Dining a Hard Sell, Study Says

Nutritionists are harping on everyone to make better food choices. The government wants you to disclose the calorie and fat counts in your dishes. And many of your guests are dealing with multiple diet-related chronic illnesses, not the least of which is obesity. But do they want to eat right at your restaurant? Nope, according to a just-released study from Mintel Menu Insights.

Only one in five American diners ranked food health as an important factor when ordering dinner, Mintel’s research found. Taste (77%) and hunger satisfaction (44%) were higher priorities for the group. And while more than three-quarters of the survey participants said they would like to see more healthy items on the menu, only half said they usually choose those kinds of items.

Several factors seem to be working against sales of healthier foods, including what’s being offered. “When it comes to dining out, most people are really looking for taste, texture and experience. So healthy menu items need to perfect the balance between nutrition and flavor,” observes Maria Caranfa, director of Mintel Menu Insights.

Another drawback is price, or at least the perception of price. More than half of the Mintel study respondents said they believe eating healthy at a restaurant is costlier than not eating healthy.
Finally, the typical restaurant stresses less-healthy choices, making it more difficult for anyone inclined to order better-for-them fare.

So why change if that’s what the guest wants? The status quo may not be good enough as operators are forced to disclose more nutritional information.

“Restaurants need to make ‘healthy’ food appeal on flavor, freshness and satiety benefits, not just on calorie and fat information,” Caranfa says. “Healthy dining should be as satisfying as ordering from the regular menu.”