Restaurants Making Big Money Off Diners’ Decisions To Eat Healthy

“Do you want fries with that?” used to be sort of a no-brainer question because, yes, of course, we all want fries with that, no matter what “that” is because fries are delicious. They’re what you eat at a fast food joint, right? Not so much anymore. Sure, people still love fries, but they also love healthier items and non-sugary drinks. And that’s actually profitable for fast food chains, so everyone’s happy.

A study by the Hudson Institute of 21 fast-food as well as sit-down restaurant chains showed that lower-calorie food and drinks are boosting stores’ growth, reports the Wall Street Journal.

For those joints that upped the amount of lower-calorie offerings on their menus, sales within those stores were boosted about 5.5% on average. So for anyone who still has complete faith in their deep-fryers and eschews the notion of anything green, you’re missing out.

“The bottom line is, if restaurants don’t get more aggressive behind these low-calorie products, they’re leaving sales on the table,” said Henry Cardello, director of the Hudson Institute’s Obesity Solutions Initiative and lead author of the report. “It’s a business imperative.”

Drinks are going the same way — instead of guzzling down cups of sugary liquid, other choices are helping boost low-calorie offerings into the echelon of desired drinks.

So what’s a lower-calorie serving? For food it’s anything like a sandwich or entree that’s 500 or fewer calories, or for side dishes and desserts, 150 or fewer caolries. Meanwhile drinks with 50 or fewer calories per eight ounces are considered to be in that category.

Beyond the business side of thing, there’s been a growing trend of consumers clamoring for healthier choices on the menu — apple slices instead of chips, side salads that aren’t just weak shadows of lettuce instead of fried whatever. And when we say we want something, restaurants better listen or risk their customers going elsewhere to find it.

Low-Cal Items Fuel Restaurant Sales [Wall Street Journal]