Despite efforts to get U.S. consumers to eat healthier at restaurants, only 24 percent of U.S. consumers say they eat healthy when they dine out while over half of foodservice visitors say they are healthy eaters at home, according to The NPD Group, a global information company. A recently released NPD foodservice market research report finds 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.
When dining away from home, most consumers are primarily seeking menu items that are unique, quick, and indulgent, something that they couldn’t or wouldn’t make at home, finds the NPD study, Healthy at Foodservice–Consumer Expectations Put in Perspective. Eating what they want to eat and indulging are the top reasons consumers give for not selecting healthy choices when they go out to eat. Other reasons cited include not paying attention to healthfulness when ordering, not having to watch what they eat, and eating healthy isn’t a priority for them, according to the NPD study, which examines key order drivers, phrases consumers associate with healthy eating, and target markets for healthy eating away from home.
Regardless of their wanting to treat themselves when they dine out, there are aspects of healthy that these more indulgent consumers are looking for, like freshly made, fresh ingredients, and right portion size. The 24 percent of consumers looking to eat healthy when they dine out, still eat what they want but are significantly more likely than others to order their meals at restaurants with a healthy twist, either by switching the protein, the preparation method, or having extras “on the side.”
“It would benefit foodservice operators to promote the message that eating healthy at restaurants doesn’t always mean giving up your favorite foods,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant industry analyst. “Providing the opportunity for menu customization will keep these healthier diners happy, while also satisfying the tastes of the more indulgent consumers.”