March 7, 2007

TGI Friday's listens to this blog: rolls out Right Portion at a Right Price

Finally, someone is listening.

T.G.I. Friday's unveil the first national program in the casual dining business that offers a variety of menu items with smaller portions — and lower prices — all day, USA Today reports.

The menu rolling out this weekend, dubbed Right Portion, Right Price, has 10 entrees sold in portions about 30% smaller and priced about one-third less than regular entrees. The smaller entrees will be about $7 to $9 instead of $10 to $13.

The restaurant industry has shied away from such offerings because they're sure to cut check totals, says Richard Snead, CEO of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, parent of the 582-store Friday's chain. "It's a little scary," he says. "But the consumer is telling us: 'I don't want an entree as big as my head.' "

Also this week Krispy Kreme trotted out a whole-wheat doughnut which, while not drastically lower in calories, is better than the both-barrels caloric content of the company’s regular line.

During the same period, Subway announced a new line of Fresh Fit meals featuring low-fat subs with fruit instead of chips and water or 1 percent milk in lieu of soft drinks.

This is not a fad, it's a trend," says Ron Paul, president of Technomic, a restaurant consulting firm. "It's not going to go away."

Consumers are bound to see more. The nation's big food sellers are convinced nothing sells like promises of good health. Some 79% of restaurantgoers recently surveyed by Technomic said they worry about fat content, and 73% worry about calories.

The actions by Friday's and Subway are big deals; the steps by Hostess and Krispy Kreme are not, says Cynthia Lair, nutritionist and author of Feeding the Whole Family. "Anything you can do to get people to eat less food — and real food — is good."

The other better-for-you moves:

•Subway. The Fresh Fit meal, launching March 12, will be Subway's biggest rollout in 2007, says Tony Pace, marketing chief of Subway's franchisee ad group. The meal includes any of Subway's 6-inch, low-fat subs and will cost $4.49 to $5.89. It boosted same-store sales almost 8% in California test marketing (as Cal Fit) last year, Subway says.

•Krispy Kreme. This week, the chain rolled out a whole wheat, caramel-glazed doughnut that weighs in at 180 calories, 20 fewer than the regular glazed.

•Hostess. Last week, the snack maker introduced Hostess 100 Calorie Packs of three, two-bite cupcakes with its trademark creamy filling. Marketing chief Kevin Kaul calls it "portion-controlled convenience."

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