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Jason’s Deli, which feeds more than 50 million people annually in 28 states, won the Best Restaurant Chain survey by Parents magazine. The survey measures where families can get the most nutritious foods for the best price while also having the least stressful experience. The results of the 10 Best Restaurant Chains survey appear in the April issue of Parents, which will be available at newsstands March 15.
“We are honored and humbled by this award,” says Joe Tortorice, founder and CEO of Jason’s Deli. “As restaurateurs, we’ve challenged ourselves to do the right thing, which is feeding our kids and our customers’ children real, less-fooled-around-with food at affordable prices.”
To compile their list, Parents analyzed the calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium on both the kids’ and adult menus of more than 150 national restaurant chains. Once that list was whittled down to the chains that offered the healthiest options, editors scrutinized the quality of the ingredients such as whether organic milk or antibiotic-free chicken were offered. Then, conveniences like call-ahead seating, online ordering, crayons to keep the kids busy, and availability of high chairs and booster seats were taken into consideration.
Jason’s Deli’s winning is attributed to quality ingredients, a fresh kids’ menu, and a few innovative moves. For instance, in 2009, Jason’s Deli became the first national restaurant to ban high fructose corn syrup in its food. Then last year it eliminated artificial colors and dyes from its menu. As a result, Jason’s mac and cheese is no longer a bright fluorescent orange but a lighter, more natural color.
“Taste tests show that kids prefer the new version,” says Pat Herring, director of research and development.
The motivation for these changes started in the late 1990s, when Jason’s Deli began researching the removal of artificial trans fats from the menu. That goal was completed in 2004.
“When parents come to any Jason’s Deli, they don’t have to worry about what’s hiding in our food,” Herring says.