One of the most important trends in the food industry is to cater to health conscious customers. Which means providing healthy food and catering to vegetarians, vegans, raw-vegans, people with allergies or other health issues.
A lot of restaurants have already implemented a few important details in their menu. They describe which special meals are vegetarian, safe for people with food allergies and they also offer smart choices for those with diabetes.
Customers need healthy options
Recent studies have shown that over 70% of the adult population is trying to eat healthier than it did three years ago. What does this mean and why you shouldn’t be scared if you don’t describe each meal? People want to know they have the option to eat healthy food, even though they don’t end up ordering what you recommend.
When it comes to healthy eating customers, what they want to know is how many calories are there in a specific meal. One Food and Drug Administration regulation is that a specific meal cannot have more than 20 percent of the daily value for fat, cholesterol, or sodium. What can you do as a restaurant owner is to attract the attention to the „healthy” meals, even though you won’t dispose yourself of the other „unhealthy” ones.
Baby steps to a healthy menu
If you want to offer a healthy menu as an alternative, start by adding a few healthy snacks, like baby carrots, celery, apples, other fruits and even nuts. Another thing you can do in order to satisfy your health conscious customers is to promote the fact that you use locally produced goods, especially fruits and vegetables.
Whatever you do, don’t lie. If you say you do something, do it or implement this at least for your healthy menu part.
Locally produced goods are seen as healthier, but if you cannot do this, try to attract the attention to other things you can provide like natural, organic, low carbohydrates, low sugar or low sodium, gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian meals.
How to cater for vegetarians, vegans and raw-vegans
When it comes to vegetarians, you must instruct your kitchen staff not to use the same utensils they handle the meat with when they make a special vegetarian meal. For a lot of restaurants a vegetarian meal means salads or soups, but in this day and age vegetarians and vegans are asking for a little more.
You might think it’s not quite „little” what these customers are asking for, but if you offer a few dishes they will be happy. They know that your restaurant isn’t dedicated to vegetarians, vegans or raw-vegans, but they will appreciate the fact that you are taking into consideration their lifestyle.
What meals can you offer? Before you start creating around three meals for each category, learn the differences:
- Vegetarians – they don’t eat meat (some tend to „cheat” with fish), but they eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, tofu, grains, cheese, yogurt, eggs and other things.
- Vegans – the big difference between the first and the second is that vegans don’t eat anything coming from animals, not even cheese or yogurt and especially not eggs. They eat a lot of meals made of soy and a lot of vegetables and nuts so get creative.
- Raw-vegans – they don’t eat anything coming from animals and they don’t eat anything which has been cooked. Coming up with a few recipes will be tricky, but if you provide them with fresh vegetables, fruits and even unprepared cakes (it can be done if you want to), they will be happy.
How to cater for people with health issues
In this case, we are not referring to people who have to lose weight in order to be healthy or have severe issues, like heart problems. If they have severe health issues, they shouldn’t eat fatty or salty meals and any other thing their doctor advised them to avoid.
We are talking about those who have diabetes and those which are allergic to the eight foods identified by the law:
- crustacean shellfish,
- tree nuts,
Train your team
The first step is to alert your team and make them ask if the customer has any allergies. Your team has to learn the menu and each recipe by heart to help customers choose meals that fit their needs. Then the chef must not use the same utensils for every meal.
If you cannot train every member of your staff, make your team ask each client if they have allergies and they will be served by a special waiter who knows all the facts. If this is not an option either, put a little * next to each meal that contains anything customers might be allergic to.
Edit your menu accordingly
Put a similar mark by each meal dedicated to people with diabetes. People suffering for this affection don’t eat special things, but each meal is cooked a bit differently: whole grain carbohydrates, low fat and no salt. Sugar should be avoid and also cooking the meal with oil. What your chef can do is take advantage of other spices and of lemon. It gives food a special flavor.
After you read this you might think it is a lot of work, but it’s worth it. You don’t have to change your menu; you just have to adjust a bit here and there. You could cook healthier for diabetics and introduce a few recipes more for those with other lifestyles.
People in the categories mentioned above have a lot of healthier friends who eat everything. Therefore, in the end, they just want to enjoy eating out with their friends. If a vegetarian invites an omnivore to a vegetarian restaurant, the omnivore won’t be happy. On the other hand, a vegetarian can find something to eat everywhere so why not provide something special for all these categories and get your business known for its diversity.