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CHICAGO –- Despite efforts to promote healthier eating at restaurants, just 24 percent of consumers in the United States say they eat healthy when dining out. More than half of foodservice visitors, however, report healthy eating habits at home, according to recent findings by The NPD Group.
Its new study, "Healthy at Foodservice – Consumer Expectations Put in Perspective," the researcher found that even as more restaurants are offering healthier menu items or posting calorie counts and other nutritional information, consumers see dining out as an indulgence and a treat.
When dining away from home, most consumers primarily seek menu items that are unique, quick and indulgent, something they couldn't or wouldn't make at home, according to the study, which examines key order drivers, phrases consumers associate with healthy eating, and target markets for healthy eating away from home.
Eating what they want to eat and indulging are the top reasons consumers give for not selecting healthy choices when dining out. Other reasons include not paying attention to healthfulness when ordering, not having to watch what they eat, and that eating healthy isn't a priority for them.
Still, these indulgent customers are looking for aspects of healthy eating such as freshly made food, fresh ingredients and right portion size. The 24 percent of consumers who do look to eat healthy when dining out 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 or the preparation method, or by having extras "on the side," NPD stated.
"It would benefit foodservice operators to promote the message that eating healthy at restaurants doesn't always mean giving up your favorite foods," said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst for NPD. "Providing the opportunity for menu customization will keep these healthier diners happy, while also satisfying the tastes of the more indulgent consumers."