One of the biggest trends in food service these days is nutrition labeling for entrees and the development of “healthy” menu items that appeal to growing consumer concerns over what they eat.
A recent survey of 433 chefs conducted by Penn State and Clemson universities has shed some light on what chefs are thinking about the nutritional content of their menus. In general chefs think cutting portion sizes, rather than adjusting recipes or ingredients of existing menu items, is the answer to developing a healthier menu. Messing with already popular menu items is anathema to most chefs, which accounts for the reluctance to change recipes in order to improve calorie counts.
On the other hand, the same chefs surveyed overwhelmingly favored introducing a new reduced calorie item to their menus as opposed to altering an existing favorite. There also seemed to be pretty solid agreement that a reduced calorie addition would be popular and sell well. Chefs in general are still split on the question of menu nutrition labeling, however, with even numbers believing calorie data would help or hurt sales.
With increasing wholesale food prices and the ever increasing costs associated with managing and storing inventory, the trend towards smaller portions in restaurants probably isn’t going anywhere. As the demand for “healthier” entrees increases, smart restaurateurs will find ways to dovetail the need to cut costs with the demand for reduced calorie counts on menus.
The marriage of these two seemingly divergent needs could be a win-win for restaurants.