Source: National Restaurant Association
Over the last few years, many restaurants began incorporating health and nutrition initiatives into their long-term social responsibility platforms. Among the initiatives: ethical and sustainable food and supply sourcing, environmental sustainability and waste reduction, and charitable contributions.
Health and nutrition rounds out the social responsibility platforms of restaurant giants such as McDonald’s, Subway, and Yum!. It helps further define a restaurant’s core values, builds consumer trust and brand reputation, fosters loyalty, and creates a path forward to business longevity and profitability.
In the wake of COVID-19, the restaurant industry’s charity is in the spotlight. To support their communities, many operators donate to food banks, feed first responders, create family meal deals, feed children whose schools are closed, and ensure their employees have food.
The pandemic expanded the social responsibility role of health and nutrition in the restaurant industry and showcased restaurants’ new role: essential sustenance providers.
“There are so many positive attributes surrounding nutrition that companies can get excited about and that spark innovation,” says Julie Meyer, RDN, founding partner at Eat Well Global. But the strategy must be authentic.
“The long-term success of incorporating nutrition into a restaurant’s social responsibility platform demands authenticity, transparency and commitment,” agrees Joe DePippo and Kathy Takemura, partners at food consultancy Tournant, Inc.
Restaurants, they say, might ask themselves:
- Who is our consumer?
- Where does health and nutrition fall within our values?
- What steps can or should we take to support the health of our consumers?
Here are a few ways restaurants can build upon their social responsibility platforms by incorporating health and nutrition:
- Increase food accessibility: COVID-19 caused food insecurity to soar and it won’t go away with a vaccine. Restaurants can increase food accessibility by making ongoing charitable commitments, ensuring that their employees always have access to healthy food, and by providing healthful meals or excess food to community members in need.
- Innovate with fruits and vegetables: Recent research shows that the health benefits of eating slightly more fruits and vegetables can be seen in as little as two to eight weeks. Innovating menus with more fruits and vegetables is easy because they’re packed with flavor, adapt to myriad preparations — fresh and cooked — are low cost, and are on-trend.
- Choose clean ingredients: Since the introduction of Panera Bread’s “No No List” in 2015, restaurants have been removing and replacing ingredients to improve the health benefits of their food. By examining ingredient lists on food supplies, restaurants can identify the ingredients they and their customers can do without.
- Initiate stealth health: Restaurants can eliminate excess in their menu items and create a more healthful food supply by examining their nutrition analysis. Small moves can result in big gains; Taco Bell reduced its largest cup size from 40 oz. to 30 oz.
- Increase transparency in reporting nutrition, allergens, and ingredients: This health information is necessary for customers to decide what they can and can’t eat, and which restaurants fit their nutrition profiles. Does your restaurant have a nutrition guide to its menu and is it easy to find on your website? It should be updated as your menu changes, too.