If you’ve ever received a review online for your business that’s said something similar to:
“Had to leave because there was nothing healthy on the menu”
“Everything was fried and loaded with sugar or grease”
“If you’re trying to eat healthy, this place isn’t for you”
We can assure you, you’re not alone.
Yes—these reviews are frustrating to receive. You might read them and think something along the less censored lines of cook your own food then if you’re trying to be healthy! But before getting too angry, let’s rewind to half a century ago, when restaurants played a different role in our lives. To most, restaurants meant once-in-a-while treats or special occasion meals. Since then, American values have changed, and today, nearly one-third of our meals are prepared away from home. Why? We’ve become more work oriented; our families now have 2 working parents instead of 1, we work longer hours, spend more time commuting back and forth, and of course, we have less time to cook. In only the past 30 years, our dependence on restaurants has skyrocketed—and so has our obesity rate.
As a whole, more than every 1 in 3 adults are obese in the United States; a rate that has changed dramatically since 1990. Many people have since educated themselves on how to live a healthier lifestyle, but struggle when it comes to dining out. As a restaurant owner, you can make a huge difference by only making a few small changes and adjustments within your establishment.
Out with the old, in with the new
With Spring comes change, and your menu offerings are no exception. Health aside, it’s important to rotate what you offer depending on what’s in season in order to give your dishes that fresh taste, boost of flavor, and colorful appearance. Plus, advertising new menu items is a sure way to pique interest and draw in customers. Giving your entire menu a makeover can benefit you in more ways than you might think (more on this later), but if you can’t do that, think about adding inserts or creating a separate menu for lighter options. If for some reason you can’t get these new items in print, it’s essential to get the word out via social media and email marketing.
Make it exciting and keep your guests interested by offering a new special every day or week, and getting a contest going. Whichever special gets the most customer votes can be added to your main menu for them to enjoy regularly. If you’re the creative type, giving your specials health/fitness pun related names can really create a buzz around your business too. I had the ‘Oh My Quad’ turkey burger and it was only 200 calories! Just as amazing as the ‘Keep Kale-ing It’ salad.
Let’s talk food
As great as it would be to replace all of your unhealthy menu items with more nutritious options, we know that’s just unrealistic. There are, however, small steps you can take to encourage healthier choices among your guests. For example, ditch the salt and use herbs and spices to season your meat and sides; you’ll get just as much flavor with half the sodium. The same goes for sugar—try using natural juices instead. Here are some other initiatives you can take:
- Add a non-fried vegetable to your list of available sides (the more the merrier)
- Have kid’s meals come with a healthy side by default (all-natural applesauce, veggie medley served raw or sauteed in olive oil, house made sweet potato fries, and more!)
- Offer smaller portions
- Stick to trends! Add a fresh pressed juice bar or build-your-own options for items like salads, burritos, grain bowls, etc. (huge selling point for millennials!)
Every vegetable needs a spokesperson
The sad reality? Adding healthy options to your menu doesn’t necessarily mean that your customers will order them. Here’s where your staff comes in. They’re already pros at upselling pricier dishes, so why not add your nutritious options to their repertoire too? If someone is asking their server for a recommendation, it means that they trust the server enough to at least consider giving whatever is suggested a shot.
Arming your employees with facts on nutrition as well as all of your new dishes in training can only benefit you. Make it a team bonding exercise by getting your employees together to try every new dish and quizzing them on each afterwards. They can work together in teams, and the winning team can win the prize of your choice. Or, try carrying out the contest passed training; whichever employee sells the most healthy dishes in a month’s span wins a free gym membership for a month, a gift card to a health food store or somewhere that sells athletic wear, a healthy cookbook, a free kayaking lesson—anything you see fit! Pun totally intended.
Remember when we said that giving your entire menu a makeover can benefit you in more ways than you might think? Let’s go back to that. As mentioned earlier, just adding healthy options to your menu might not be enough. Some of your guests might see the word ‘healthy’ and look away. And realistically, we know that not every business has a dream team working for them, so perhaps recruiting your staff might not be enough either. What can help you though, is the way your menu reads to your guests.
Just because it’s healthy, doesn’t mean it has to be called ‘Healthy Chicken’ and listed under the ‘Lighter Choices’ section. Your guests will be much more inclined to try a “Chef’s Recommendation” or “Traditional Favorite” anyway. Here are some other ways to use your menu to get your customers to gravitate towards better choices:
- List calories to show the difference between wholesome and fattening items (convenient for those who count calories, and becoming a requirement in more and more states)
- Don’t single out your healthy items by making them more expensive than everything else
- Highlight the healthy dishes using bold/larger fonts or icons
- There’s a science behind the placement of menu items and customer choices; read more about it here!
If you don’t start implementing health and nutrition into your establishment, your competition will beat you to it. In fact, take a look at this list of The #1 Healthiest Menu Option at 40 Popular Restaurants. We have full confidence that your healthy dishes can be 100x better!