Consumers prefer to indulge in restaurants

by Monica Watrous
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CHICAGO – In spite of industry-wide efforts to boost nutrition on restaurant menus, consumers would rather indulge when dining out.

While more than half of adults say they eat healthful meals always or most of the time at home, only 25% order them when dining out, according to a recent report from the NPD Group. Of those who don’t eat healthy in restaurants, 37% said “I want to eat what I want to eat” and 23% indicated “I want to indulge when I go out to eat.”

“The bottom line is that even with an increasing number of restaurants offering healthier menu items or posting calories and other nutritional information, at the end of the day, consumers see dining out as a treat, an indulgence,” said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst for the NPD Group.

Consumers are more likely to skip dessert, appetizers or beverages to cut calories than opt for lighter versions or smaller portions of a dish. Additionally, 39% choose salads for an entree, 28% pick a healthier protein, 19% don’t eat the full meal, and 16% request sauce or dressing on the side.

“Operators and food service operators are in a challenging position trying to balance meeting their customers’ wants and needs, like any successful marketer should do, and meeting societal responsibilities,” Ms. Riggs said. “A first step is understanding healthy from the consumers’ perspective.”

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