Article contributed by Edamam
As tradition and habit have it, January is the month to make resolutions and focus on being healthy during the new year. It is also the perfect opportunity for a restaurant to get its menu into shape and make some of the health and diet options on it shine.
This does not mean redesigning the menu or recreating recipes, but rather thinking through existing menu items to categorize them into sections that call out particular “health” features. The menu itself can have a page dedicated to some of the most sought-after health options of customers further outlined below – gluten-free, high protein, healthy, plant-based, as well as others that might work particularly well with your specific menu and cuisine. Matching your online menu to health options is even easier, as your menu can change over time.
Identifying the health benefits of your menu is a simple exercise in organization and marketing to highlight the options that people are looking for. The result is likely to be higher orders of the highlighted items, but also improved online ordering as people search and find options not based just on the dish name, but also its health benefits.
So, what are some of the health label options a restaurant should consider and how can one easily create these labels with minimal effort and cost?
Gluten-free. From celiac disease concerns to a mainstream trend, “gluten-free” is still going strong. To many people this is just a shortcut to eating fewer carbohydrates, as they cut out almost all flour products (breads, pasta). You can provide “gluten-free” versions of your dishes in this separate section of the menu. For example, there might be Caesar salads without croutons or chickpea flour pasta. As people experiment with gluten-free variations of classic dishes at home, they will be delighted to see a restaurant putting an effort in the same direction.
High protein. Protein is arguably the most sought-after nutrient these days. It is almost impossible to shop in a grocery store and not see a label that calls out the protein content or claims a “high protein” benefit. So, pull put all the lean meat dishes with vegetable sides and any protein boosted salads or soups and put them in one section. You will get the workout fanatics, the paleo crowd and the smoothie drinking moms. This section of the menu will be on trend and a customer favorite.
Healthy. An obvious and straightforward label is the “healthy” one. The trouble with “healthy” is that it means different things to different customers. Therefore, highlighting benefits usually considered “healthy” is important. The generally accepted “healthy” standard is “low-sodium”, “low-sugar”, and “low fat”. Many salads will fall into that category, but also some heartier fair such as pastas, lean meat dishes or vegetable sides. If placed in the regular sections of the menu, these items may be hard to identify for a “healthy” eater, so they will be grateful if such options appear in a separate part of the menu.
Plant-based. Admittedly, this is a new trend, which may still be considered a fad. Given, however, the outsized impact it has had on the consumer packaged goods industry (think eggless mayonnaise, pea milk, self-serve salad bars in grocery stores), it is safe to assume that the trend is here to stay. It is to a great extent driven by Millennials, who are concerned not only with their personal health, but the health of the planet and the environmental impact their eating habits have. So, if you have what was traditionally called “vegan” options, call them “plant-based” and put them in a separate section. This will satisfy vegan diners as well as omnivores seeking to reduce meat and dairy consumption.
Choose an extra label that works for your menu. Choose anything else that works well for the items on your menu from the myriad of possible “health” diets. You can go with “no sugar added”, “no oil added”, “gut health” (if you have lots of fermented foods), “high fiber”, “super foods”, “specific carbohydrates”, etc. There are many variations you can choose from. The advantage is that you will bring certain items to the forefront and start building a clientele that will be coming and ordering because your food matches their lifestyle.
How to create menu labels?
The first step to healthifying your menu is to analyze the dishes you already have. This is a relatively easy task, which however usually takes time and money. Not so if you use an intuitive and very affordable tool, such as Edamam’s Nutrition Wizard. Its Pro version is specifically designed for restaurants and at $22.95 per month allows you to analyze an unlimited number of recipes. With the Nutrition Wizard you can simply enter or copy/paste the ingredient list of your recipe into the application and voilà, with the touch of a button, all relevant health and diet labels are provided to you! You can even use the Nutrition Wizard Pro to experiment by changing ingredients of existing recipes or developing new meals to fit the health labels you choose to call out.
So, take January as seriously as your clients and make it a “health month” that will improve the well being of your customers as well as that of your restaurant.
For more information on Edamam’s Nutrition Wizard, please visit their website