Marketers and designers should consider highlighting the health aspects of restaurants’ offerings on menuboards, table-side promos, and ad campaigns. New research from Mintel reveals that 48% of American consumers agree that finding healthy items at restaurants is too difficult, with 25% of them looking for nutritional claims on menus more in 2015 than during the year before. Also, 68% of consumers agree that more restaurants should call out healthy claims on menus.
As consumers look to incorporate healthier, more well-rounded diets as part of their daily lives, 36% are more frequently preparing healthier food at home instead eating at restaurants compared to last year. Further, 64% of consumers believe that many healthy restaurant dishes are too expensive.
However, consumers appear willing to indulge when dining out despite their interest in health: 62% of restaurant goers agree that taste is more important than nutrition, with 86% saying that dining out is a treat. One way restaurants can satisfy consumers looking to indulge is by offering healthy substitutions. Notably, 46% of restaurant goers are interested in more healthful side options, and 27% are already replacing unhealthy sides with healthier options compared to last year. Another 35% of consumers are interested in more dishes that heavily feature vegetables.
“As Americans adopt a more holistic approach to their diets, they expect clarity from food-service establishments, specifically by making healthy items easily identifiable and including more nutritional claims on menus,” says Caleb Bryant, foodservice analyst at Mintel. “At the same time, many consumers view dining out as a way to indulge.
“Restaurants should offer consumers a way to indulge and also incorporate nutrition by expanding menus to include more healthy sides, while also showcasing healthful preparation methods, such as grilled instead of fried foods,” he adds. “This provides options for whatever mood diners are in, whether they want to eat healthy, are looking to indulge, or possibly do both.”
Parents would pay more for healthy options
Health is a top priority for parents, with regard to their children and themselves. About 39% are ordering healthier food for their children, more this year compared to last, and 66% of parents would pay more for healthy foods when dining out (vs. 41% of non-parents). About 62% of parents agree that healthiness of menu items is the most important factor when choosing a restaurant compared to 36% of non-parents.
While parents are focused on healthy eating for their families, 88% view dining out as a treat. As such, Mintel research shows that 25% of parents allow children to treat themselves and eat unhealthy foods when dining out.
“Kids’ meals are notorious for having low nutritional value, and restaurants have taken steps to add more healthful menu items for children in recent years,” Bryant says. “Like adults, restaurants should look to cater to children who want nutritious items and those looking to treat themselves.”
The switch to better-for-you options
Another expanding area of concern for food service is consumer interest in better-for-you (BFY) alternatives to high-sugar drinks. About 23% of Americans are ordering less carbonated soft drinks at restaurants compared to a year ago, and 38% agree that most soft drinks are too high in sugar. This negative perception leaves the door open for restaurants to differentiate with BFY options, as consumers would like to see more all-natural beverages (38%), more iced tea options (31%), and more flavored waters (25%).
“As soft drinks have been a major revenue stream for the restaurant industry over the years,” Bryant says, “it’s important that restaurants adapt to consumers’ better-for-you preferences.”