Happy New Year to all!
If you are like me, you have made a few New Year's resolutions. Common resolutions include adopting a more healthful lifestyle through diet and exercise. In addition, when the calendar rolled over to 2011, the foodservice industry found itself facing many new regulations that require operators to communicate nutritional information about the food they sell.
In light of the fact that healthful eating is on the mind of so many people these days, both personally and professionally, it seems appropriate to me to start the New Year by offering some thoughts on how the foodservice industry can contribute.
The other day I visited a restaurant that actually posts calorie counts on the menu slat. The letters are a smaller font, but readable nevertheless. This is one way a restaurant can meet mandates from local or federal government to make the nutritional content of their food available to consumers. Other restaurants provide consumers with booklets containing nutritional information about their menu or make it available via their websites. Some concepts even have a dynamic system where you can build your own product and the calories and other key "health" metrics add up right in front of your eyes right on the screen, even with animation.
These labeling requirements represent governments' attempt to save us from our bad eating behaviors by forcing us to look more closely at the health level of the food we consume. Perhaps the focus should also include how we cook our food.
It is important to remember that the way food is cooked and the process leading up to that step can have a big impact on the nutritional value of a specific menu item. Take a piece of fish, typically considered as a very healthy item to consume. Foodservice operators can prepare fish in a cariety of ways:
• Deep Fried
• Sautéed/Pan Fried/Seared
• Sou Vide
• Rapid Cooking Technology
• Oven Baked
• Conveyor Oven
The healthful nature of this protein differs based on the chosen cooking and preparation method. Additionally, how the foodservice operator finishes the product can also take away (or enhance) the menu item's healthful nature. For example, adding certain kinds of sauces can take away from the meal's health benefits.
So maybe as part of our New Year's resolution, members of the foodservice industry can work together to offer more healthful ways to cook the items in the menu to help consumers eat more healthy. In doing so we should explore processes that have a higher "health quotient" thanks to the equipment used to produce the items. Minding the operating "Ps", equipment platforms, processes, procedures and products, can make a big difference in our quest to help consumers live a healthier lifestyle. Who knows, pointing out the cooking methodology could even turn out to be a competitive advantage for the supplier, designer, consultant brand. One very successful example of a thriving brand who communicates their process as such is Firehouse Subs, a concept with very significant growth in 2010.
People have different perceptions and uses of food. For my company's director of consulting, food is simply fuel. In contrast, for me food is something to enjoy, so I eat past the full level. The one piece that we both agree upon is that along with minding what you eat, we need to get some exercise done.