A Health Kick
According to research from HospitalityGEM, customers would like healthier options when they eat out – and with January being the month that most people kick off a diet or vow to eat more healthily, this is the perfect time to shake up your menu and stand out from the crowd.
Healthy doesn’t mean boring. To entice customers in, you need to produce delicious and exciting meals so those customers choosing a healthier lifestyle don’t miss out. “Make sure your menu descriptions sound as appealing and tempting as your food tastes,” says Alex Hall, executive chef at Unilever Food Solutions. “Rather than just listing ingredients, focus on their unique, appetising characteristics and make the dish more appealing by explaining its origin and telling a story.”
Obesity levels in the UK are rising; the proportion of adults in England who are overweight or obese has risen from 53% in 1993 to 62% in 2013. However, swathes of the population are attempting to address this, with 30% of UK adults trying to lose weight ‘all’ or ‘most’ of the time. People are also trying to eat healthily, with 58% of UK adults saying they try to eat healthily ‘all’ or ‘most’ of the time.*
Tweak your favourites
• Spag bol – use courgette linguini instead of traditional pasta to lower the carb intake
• Risotto – use pearl barley as an alternative to rice
• Stroganoff – use low fat crème fraîche instead of cream
• Lasagne – swap the mince for chicken or vegetables
• Curry – use yoghurt or crème fraîche instead of full fat cream
Ask the customer
Most dishes have sauces so why not ask the customer if they’d prefer it served separately – or even if they want it at all? Creamy and indulgent sauces that complement meat or fish dishes may be too rich (or high in calories) so this way the customer can still indulge, but on a much smaller scale. For burgers normally served with mayonnaise already spread on the bun, ask if they want this separate and when making a sandwich ask the customer if they want it buttered. If they do, why not use Flora Original as it contains 72% less saturated fat than butter, while Flora Buttery has 70% less saturated fat than butter but still has a great buttery taste. Small tweaks will not only give the customer more control over what, and how much, they eat, but will help to reduce kitchen waste too.
Let customers know that certain dishes are tweaked to be healthier by advertising it on your website, social media and in-house. Advertise the fact that you use local, organic eggs, serve your curries with brown rice and chapatis, and your tea and coffee options come with the option of skimmed milk. Encourage customers to ask for something if they are unsure or enquire over ingredients and calorie content of a dish.
Tips from the top
By Alex Hall, executive chef at Unilever Food Solutions
• Base your desserts and bakes around different seasonal fruits
• Use Hellmann’s Light in your dips and coleslaw
• Add pulses and beans to your dishes or sauces to help keep your customers feeling fuller for longer
• Make fresh couscous by blending cauliflower then cooking in Knorr vegetable stock, cumin, cinnamon and turmeric to add middle-eastern flavour
• Try mixing pasta with vegetable ribbons to increase your customers’ vegetable intake
• Use leaner cuts of meat and consider whether you can try a leaner preparation method: roasting, grilling, baking, steaming, braising
• Substitute one ingredient in the dish for something healthier
What to drink
Low-calorie soft drinks are popular, but if customers are detoxing then water may be their preferred option, so make sure your sizes and ranges of bottled water are featured on your drinks menu. Customers will pay a premium for what they think is a better brand, so make sure this is clear for them to see. Coca-Cola’s Glacéau Smartwater appeals to younger, pre-family drinkers who like the healthy blend of vapour distilled spring water and electrolytes. Speciality tea and fruit and herbal infusions are a must – so stock up now. “Fruit and herbal infusions have seen a 6% growth in year on year sales while green tea sales have surged by 12%,” said Rhodri Morgan, marketing manager for Tea in Unilever Food Solutions. And why not lure customers in with an enticing – and even detoxing – mocktail menu? Mocktails offer the customer a luxurious experience – something they are happy to pay for – meaning a premium price can be charged.