January is often a time for health-oriented resolutions including weight loss and US Restaurants have taken note and adjusted menus accordingly in the hopes of continuing to draw these consumers in. In years past, restaurants would release an item or two that focused on the current food trend whether it be fat, carbs, or more recently, calorie counts. In more recent years, the market has shifted toward entire sub-menus dedicated to better-for-you options including lighter fare and calorie controlled items.

In 2015, the recurring theme throughout limited service restaurants is meal combos under a specific calorie count. This strategy gives consumers more options, capitalizing on the trend toward customization as well as meeting a greater variety of consumer needs from nutritional goals to dietary restrictions. On top of that, these selections feature upscale, gourmet-like flavors and ingredients, making healthy eating more appetizing than ever before.

In 2015, the recurring theme throughout limited service restaurants is meal combos under a specific calorie count

However, operators face the difficulty of standing apart from competitors. The key here is for brands to create differentiation. Some operators look to provide increased information for integrity and convenience as well as to make consumers feel empowered to choose the best possible decisions for themselves. This has resulted in partnerships with other organizations and implementing online nutritional tools.

Meanwhile, other operators are focusing on ingredients. This includes trendy super foods, responsibly raised meats, and alternative proteins. Highlighting ingredients involves the use of menu descriptors from preparation labels to nutritional claims. To give the items a bit more credibility, some operators are even calling out measures beyond calories like protein.

Unfortunately, healthful food tends to be more expensive due to ingredient costs. Because of this, some consumers shy away from trial or regular consumption of the dishes. Operators are working to boost trial in unique ways. Some offer diet plans and loyalty programs while others give away samples. Whichever strategy a restaurant chooses, it should attempt to create conversation among consumers and build in return visits. This boosts check average and increases the chances of a consumer bringing others.

Bethany’s work as a Foodservice Analyst is primarily focused on developing monthly foodservice-specific reports by utilizing custom consumer studies, market research, and menu information. Her most recent topics include Technology in Restaurants and LSR: Ethnic Concepts.