Many Restaurants Fall Short on Healthy Menus

What chains do consumers say get it right?

Whataburger (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores / Foodservice)

CHICAGO -- Consumers say that many chains are missing the mark when offering healthy options on their menus, as revealed in a recent white paper using data from Technomic's Consumer Brand Metrics (CBM) program.

The white paper, Better-for-You Chains: Consumer Ratings of Restaurants' Healthy Offerings, shows that a majority of consumers say it's important for restaurants—even quick-service concepts—to ensure that they healthy options; however, on average, less than half of consumers rate leading restaurant brands as very good on the availability of healthy options, based on their most recent visit.

"Consumers may not select healthy options on every occasion," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic. "But increasingly, operators must understand the importance of health to their customers, and many will need to refresh their menu offerings to deliver what their customers demand."

The white paper highlights several restaurants that consumers say already excel at providing healthy choices:

  • Limited-service restaurants: More than three-fifths of consumers rate the availability of healthy options at Jamba Juice, Jason's Deli and McAlister's Deli as very good. Jamba Juice enjoys broad awareness of its better-for-you brand positioning, and is ranked as the top chain on this attribute by Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers.
  • Full-service restaurants: More than half of visitors to The Cheesecake Factory, Bonefish Grill and Bahama Breeze Island Grille say these chains are very good when it comes to providing healthy options. While Millennials' top choice on this attribute is Bonefish Grill, Baby Boomers award the highest ratings to The Cheesecake Factory.
  • Most improved chains: Consumers increasingly rate Whataburger and Bonefish Grill as very good on the availability of healthy options year over year. For Whataburger, improved ratings may result from the 550 Calorie Menu it introduced in 2012, while Bonefish Grill's increase may be driven by consumers increasingly associating its fresh seafood offerings with health.

Chicago-based Technomic provides information, analysis and insights to food industry executives through consulting, market research, online databases, tracking services and industry events.