Consumers’ first line of defense in healthy consumption when they eat out is cutting an item out or cutting down on an order, which is not the best news for foodservice operators, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Instead of selecting a healthier menu item, consumers say they are more apt to cut out desserts, have water instead of revenue-generating beverages, or get a smaller portion when seeking a healthier meal from a restaurant, according to a soon-to-be-released NPD foodservice market research report.
In addition to cutting down or out, foodservice consumers look to healthier choices in protein, preparation, or fit with their diet, finds the NPD study. The report, which examines key order drivers, phrases consumers associate with healthy eating, and target markets for healthy eating away from home, also finds that consumers order healthier preparations for foods ordered, including ordering smaller portions.
The top five choices consumers make when ordering healthier foods from a foodservice establishment include:
• Have a salad as a meal — 39 percent;
• No dessert or sweets — 38 percent;
• No beverage or just have water — 37 percent;
• Pick a healthier protein or meat — 28 percent;
• Get a smaller portion — 23 percent.
Other options, such as having an appetizer instead of an entrée or no side item both garnered 10 percent of responses.
NPD reports that while over 50 percent of adults say they eat healthful meals always or most of the time at home, only 25 percent say they eat healthy foods when they go out to eat. The variance in part reflects differences in consumers’ priorities, which change depending on where they eat. According to the NPD study, of those consumers not ordering healthy when they dine out, 37 percent said that when they go out to eat, “I want to eat what I want to eat,” and 23 percent said that “I want to indulge when I go out to eat.”
“The bottom line is that even with an increasing number of restaurants offering healthier menu items or posting calories and other nutritional information, at the end of the day, consumers see dining out as a treat, an indulgence,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “Operators and foodservice operators are in a challenging position trying to balance meeting their customers’ wants and needs, like any successful marketer should do, and meeting societal responsibilities. A first step is understanding healthy from the consumers’ perspective.”