There are a lot of reasons why people they dine in at their favorite restaurant. Of course, it is certainly pleasing to be served with a mouthwatering meal. For some diners, the idea that they are being served by a professional crew makes dining-in worth the cost. Still for others, sharing good food with the company of friends or family members is good enough reason to dine in.
But gone are the days when diners would just chomp on the food served to them at a restaurant. They have become more conscious of their health. As such, restaurants these days have this need to cope with the change in customer buying attitude by providing nutritional information on the meals they serve.
Four years ago, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a law that would require big restaurant chains—or those with 20 or more outlets nationwide— to put calorie information on their menus as well as drive-through signs.
That meant that anyone who walks into a Starbucks, Burger King, Chili’s, and T.G.I. Friday’s outlet in the United States would be able to know how many calories a certain food has, and even learn how many calories a healthy individual should consume in a day. In fact, that law even applies on food items sold in vending machines.
The law was historic because it was the first time that the federal government asked restaurants to become more transparent with the issue of nutritional information. Supporters of the law argued that consumers spend more than half of their food money dining in at restaurants, yet they are presented with unhealthy food options. They added that with the passing of the law, more customers will be able to make healthier food choices.
Thus far, studies have shown that the law has been able to serve its purpose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported recently that 57% of adult consumers refer to the menu labeling provided by restaurants in deciding which food items to order.
Nutrition information is not the only restaurant secret that has come out public in recent years. Restaurants have also been serving food partially or fully cooked off-site, usually in a food-processing facility, in order to reduce labor costs and hasten their service. It’s something that consumers before were not aware of, but has become more of an open secret recently.
Restaurateurs cite that the practice of off-site food preparation does not only help them boost their bottom line, but also lessen the risks of food-borne diseases. The Center for Science in the Public Interest once reported that restaurants accounted for 41 percent of food-borne illness outbreaks from 1990 to 2006, while private homes only accounted for a measly 22 percent. Likewise, this practice solves the employee training issues that restaurants face due to the high employee turnover rate that the industry is notorious for.
And it’s not a practice that is observed in the United States. Even restaurants in Paris, long-considered by many as the food capital of the world, have been ordering for food prepared elsewhere as part of efforts to reduce labor costs.
Companies in France like Metro are becoming a fixture in the French restaurant industry. These companies have huge central kitchens where foods like vegetables are chopped and tilapia filets are prepared. These prepared recipes are then delivered to French restaurants.
For most restaurant owners in France, the set-up is ideal as they can keep their meal prices low. But some critics of the trend see it as an insult to the French tradition of cooking, where everything is home-made.
Reducing Portion Sizes
Restaurants have to find ways to adjust to their ultra-competitive industry, and one of the ways they can maximize their profits in the midst of an increasingly picky patron base is by adjusting the portion size of more expensive foods.
Restaurants are shrinking the sizes of their meat dishes, and compensate for this by putting more vegetables and starches. Yes, vegetables like steamed broccoli figures to be a good addition for health-conscious consumers but plates that are heaped with starches also means lots of calories and saturated fats.
Obviously, restaurants are reducing the portions of their meals in order to maximize their bottom line. But there are also some foodies who argue that this practice has good intentions, especially in the light of reports that the world is wasting a quarter of its food.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, one out of four calories produced by the global agriculture sector is being lost or wasted. It thus bats for smaller portion sizes at restaurants to reduce the global food waste.
With this development, along with the fact that more people are conscious of the calories they consume on a daily basis, it’s safe to say that the days of the super-sized meals in restaurants are basically over.