3 Ways Restaurants Can Cater to Guest Lifestyles + Dietary Restrictions
Dietary restrictions have increased exponentially amongst Americans over the past couple of decades. The reason is two-fold: first, actual allergies to dairy, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy have been on the rise (for reasons as yet unknown); and second, the effort to eat cleaner has become a national preoccupation, whether in order to shed weight, optimize energy levels, or achieve that subtle glow.
According to the National Restaurant Association, “more than 7 in 10 adults are trying to eat healthier at restaurants than they did 2 years ago.” Whereas being gluten-free 10 years ago might have been seen as fringe, today it is a mainstream lifestyle for Celiacs and non-Celiacs alike. In fact, the gluten-free market is projected to grow to $7.59 billion by 2020 (Source: Statista).
Here, we’ve put together a 3-pronged approach to winning the favor of guests with dietary restrictions, a growing demographic whose loyalty is certain to prove valuable in the coming years…
1. Engineer your menu so that dietary restrictions don't feel so restrictive.
Sounds like a tall order. But really, it’s a simple question of presentation.
Provide a one-size-fits-all menu, and your average vegetarian guest, for example, will have to hunt for options, eliminating choices in their head as they read down the list. On the other hand, if you create a series of menus customized for particular lifestyles, your vegetarian guest will be less aware of what they cannot have and instead keenly aware of the choices they do have.
The Self Order Kiosks at UFood Grill do an excellent job of this (pictured left). Vegetarians’ needs aren’t merely accommodated or presented as a secondary concern — the menu is purposefully engineered to acknowledge and cater to the requirements of different lifestyles.
2. Be transparent about nutrition and ingredients.
Starting May 5th, restaurants with 20 or more locations will be legally required to display calorie counts for items and meals. But why stop there?
In their bid to be healthier, guests appreciate knowing more information: “Fresh, natural and simple are the culinary words of the day. As consumers are taking a greater interest in ingredient lists of packaged food – the shorter the better, the more pronounceable the better – chefs and restaurateurs also look for minimally processed ingredients for their menus” (Source: NRA).
Mollie & Ollie’s self order touchscreen menu (pictured right) offers an ingredient list for each meal, making it easy for guests to know exactly what they’re ordering with a single tap.
3. Set your concept apart with an inviting attitude and watch guest loyalty follow.
Restaurant experiences can be more daunting than enjoyable for guests living with serious allergies. But you can distinguish your concept by treating guest questions and concerns as opportunities to connect.
In an interview with Eater, Boston restaurateur Ming Tsai points out: “You will never get a more loyal client than someone that has a food allergy, that comes to your establishment, and feels welcome.” He adds that the client’s family will often be loyal as a result as well because the person with allergies generally gets priority when choosing a restaurant.
Train your staff to welcome questions about ingredients, recipes, and cooking methods. In the process, you’ll create the kind of personalized experience that keeps guests coming time and again.