Healthy Restaurants

According to the National Restaurant Association, this year for the first time, the number one reason people are choosing not to dine out is not financial. It’s about a health. Calories, fat and salt. Portion size, (calories) and adding salt to everything are the biggest concerns for folks that dine out regularly.

Obesity and chronic diseases related to poor diets may bankrupt our country. The CDC is shifting it’s model from treatment to prevention. Grants are being managed at the state and local level to provide TA money to the local health departments for education and promotion of healthy cooking for restaurants.

I wanted to get ahead of this trend so I signed up for the program. I shared my recipes and plate styling’s on Google drive with our local program coordinator, Melissa Martin. Her background in dietetics, Masters in Public Health and knowledge of the food service industry make her uniquely qualified to provide recommendations to improve options for my guests to choose healthy items.

When I first looked at the program I thought it was going to require radical changes to the menu and be difficult to execute. The paradigm shift occurred when I realized that we are just providing more options. The number one concern for me was offering smaller portions. Our business requires that we maintain margins. Food cost as a percentage is important, but the dollars to the bank are probably more important. When I realized we were not talking half portions and that I did not have cut prices in half, I had a sigh in relief. An example of this is our fish and chips: we serve 3 pieces of panko breaded cod, 4 oz of fries, 6 oz of cole slaw. The reduced portion means 2 pieces of cod, 3 oz of fries and 6 oz of cole slaw. I am only reducing the price by $2 so I get to maintain my margins.

Other things are very simple like reducing the amount of salt in rubs, soups and stocks and using more herbs to provide flavor enhancement. Modifying the kids menu with a healthy side as the default. Fresh fruit offered and fries can be substituted.

I look forward to partnering with her on the next step of promotion and marketing. I want the PIO from the county health department to have my high resolution logo on his desk top!