Do Guests Really Want Healthy Options?

In this Chainleader article, quick-service and fast-casual restaurant operators discuss how they are having difficulty getting consumers to try healthy options.  Thomas John, senior VP of F&B at Au Bon Pain, mentions that by promoting healthy options as “good-for-you” doesn’t sell, but mentioned that just selling the items as a new product helped.  They try to say that the new options are better tasting rather than healthier.

It also mentions that some chains are altering their menu items to make it healthier, but do not tell consumers of the changes.  For example Au Bon Pain switched to low-fat mayonnaise, and put fruit puree in its muffins.
Panera Bread similarly altered its chicken salad sandwich in a similar manner.

I and other mystery shoppers noticed that casual dining menus often label their healthier options, and I wonder how helpful that is in selling those items.  Applebees, for example, labels the Cajun Lime Tilapia with its Weightwatchers points.  To me, the Weightwatchers label does not make the menu item seem appealing.

Interestingly, Macaroni Grill has altered its whole concept to provide lower calorie options.  I noticed they are heavily promoting their new menu as a healthier dining option.  In a press release found on their site, they specifically mention that some dishes have calories reduced by 65%.  Despite the promotions of the healthy options, they are seeing a rise in the number of customers.  Perhaps the appeal is that the items are “new” and most items have prices that are less than $10.  The pictures on Macaroni Grill’s first
page seem to highlight the fact that the recipes are Italian Mediterranean and are under $10.

The articles seem to point out to me that the way restaurants present healthy options is key for how well their guests adopt it.  It will be interesting to see how well Macaroni Grill does when its menu offerings are
no longer new options.

Read the Chainleader article here.

Read Macaroni Grill’s press release here.

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