Restaurants 'closing the gap' on healthy menus

December 03 2014

Efforts by restaurants to offer healthier options on their menus are having a real impact, according to new research, which has observed eateries are helping to close the gap between what is consumed at home and what people choose when they're out.

A new report by Technomic shows that these measures have not gone unnoticed by consumers. The company's research found only 18 per cent of people now agree that anything bought at a restaurant will be less healthy than the same item prepared at home, down from 26 per cent in 2012.

Restaurants have also proven themselves able to achieve this without compromising on flavour, as 62 per cent of consumers strongly agree that businesses can offer healthy options that taste good.

Older diners were especially likely to agree that restaurant options can be just as health as home-cooked alternatives. Just 12 per cent of those aged 45 and over thought eating out will always mean less healthy food. Meanwhile, those aged between 25 and 34 were most likely to be sceptical of restaurant meals' healthy credentials.

The study revealed that operators and suppliers are working together to meet consumer demand for healthier options, with the result that healthy items have increased by 20 per cent on Top 500 chain menus over the past two years.

"As more healthy offerings appear on menus, consumers will gain more confidence in restaurants' ability to offer healthy options and will be more likely to order these items," stated consumer research manager at Technomic Anne Mills. "In short, health could become a stronger driver of food service visits."

The research also highlighted a few examples of the steps some major chains have been taking in order to improve their healthy options.

For instance, it noted Pizza Hut is currently testing 'Skinny Slices' made using less of the same dough and lighter on toppings. Meanwhile, Starbucks is trying out a mini ten-ounce Frappuccino that is lower in price and calories than the 12-ounce version.