March 30, 2010

Restaurant chains roll out small bites at small prices

The Cheesecake Factory logoImage via Wikipedia

When I started this blog in 2006, it just seemed like common sense that restaurants needed to provide portions in the rightsize. With an expanding economy and expanding waistlines, it was clear, something was going to explode. Unfortunately, both did.

There was no reason for restaurants -- back then or now -- to serve those two or three thousands calorie meals.

Now they have seen the errors of their ways. It's the dawn of RightSizingAmerica.

Restaurant chains roll out small bites at small prices - "Some of the nation's most familiar casual-dining chains are suddenly thinking smaller.
They're rolling out tapas-like small plates of shareable items that typically are cheaper than appetizers by a buck or two — or even three.

With business still in the tank — and customers hard to lure out of the I-can-eat-cheaper-at-home mentality — a cadre of casual-dining icons, including Houlihan's, Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen and BJ's Restaurants, are trying to boost business with value-priced items to be passed around the table.

The move comes at a time when the $75 billion casual-dining business — and the restaurant industry overall — continues to suffer.

For the most recent month available, 57% of restaurants reported a same-store sales decline in January from a year ago — worse than the 49% in December, says the National Restaurant Association.

Casual-dining chains are trying just about anything. They're particularly eager to attract socially minded Millennials who are just as comfortable sharing a plate of food as they are sharing social media.

"This is how the next generation is eating," says Bob Hartnett, CEO at Houlihan's, which just rolled out 23 small-plate items. "And we're in the business of giving people what they want. If we don't give it to them, they'll find someone else who will."
I think it's how all generations must eat.

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March 26, 2010

Connecticut Rep. leads the nation to better health

{{w|Rosa DeLauro}}, member of the United State...Image via Wikipedia

I don't know if U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro reads my blog, but the Connecticut Representative led the historic fight for obesity in the new Health Care Bill. Now all across America, you will know what the calories are in a Whopper, Big Mac or a simple Mocha, just by looking at the menu.

Of course you can lead a horse to water....

But I'm willing to bet many Americans will make the right choice for themselves when they look at the menu boards and understand clearly what their choices are. It's the start of RightsizingAmerica.

Provision In Health Care Bill Requires Many Restaurants To Post Calorie Count - "The provision, championed by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, received little fanfare and was overshadowed by other aspects of the health care overhaul. But public health advocates hailed it as historic and predicted it would become a powerful weapon in the national fight against obesity.

"When people have information about calories, they do make better choices," said Marlene B. Schwartz, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

A study conducted by the center found that people ate considerably less when calorie information was listed on a restaurant's menu. And given that almost 50 percent of all meals are prepared outside the home, "people simply have the right to know this information," Schwartz said.

Everyone knows a Big Mac packs a punch, but the caloric calculus isn't always easy or obvious: Sometimes a salad can contain far more calories than a pizza slice. Under the provisions of the bill, diners will be confronted with the calorie counts of their meals right on the menu, or at the drive-through window; not in tiny writing on the wrapper or on a website they can't access until later.

DeLauro has pushed for the bill at the federal level for several years, but in the past it had been stalled by opposition from the restaurant industry. However, the industry signed on to the measure this year, saying a blanket federal policy is better than a state-by-state approach.

"Different laws in each state would make it difficult to comply," said Nicole Griffin, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. "Now we'll have national uniformity, something we've been advocating from the beginning."
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March 24, 2010

Nutritional menus are the law of the land

For 3 years, this blog has advocated for more information at restaurants. Now that information is the law of the land.

President Barack Obama signed into law the new Health bill that requires all restaurant chains to post calorie counts for all the food items they sell.

The new law will require 200,000 restaurants to do the right thing. And it means Americans will have the information to do the right thing.

If you see that the Double Whopper is 920 calories, you might make a different selection. (Unless you are running a 10K race that day, since that would just make you even for the day.)

Or maybe at Panera Bread you won't choose the Sierra Turkey on Focaccia with Asiago Cheese at 970 calories (that's right, turkey sandwich at 970 calories), but you'll choose the Half Smoked Turkey Breast on Country at 280 calories.

According to The Wall Street Journal,
"Dining out no longer has to be a nutritional guessing game," said Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit health-advocacy group based in Washington. "People could cut hundreds, thousands, of calories from their diet."

Calorie counts must be listed on menus, menu boards, drive-through displays and vending machines under the law. Additional information—such as sodium levels, carbohydrates and saturated fats—must be available on request. Temporary specials and custom orders are exempted.

A growing number of state, county and local regulations already require similar disclosures, and those rules will be superceded by the federal law.

There has been debate about whether such menu labeling actually affects consumers’ behavior. Some recent studies have found that such labeling leads to healthier eating: The New York City health department examined the behavior of 12,000 customers of 13 chain restaurants in 275 locations in the city before and after menu labeling was implemented in the city in 2008.

Preliminary results show that one in six fast-food customers report using the calorie-count information. Consumers who said they used the information bought items with 106 fewer calories compared with those who didn’t see or use the information.

March 22, 2010

Is orange juice, orange juice?

I stopped drinking orange juice a couple of years ago, when I realized it's basically a "natural" very sugary drink. Now I find out it's not even natural.

From Traditionally the flavor of processed orange juice depended only on the oranges squeezed. Now the flavor is sourced from all parts of oranges everywhere. Many consumers would be shocked and disappointed to learn that most processed orange juice, a product still widely perceived to be the definition of purity, would be undrinkable without an ingredient referred to within the industry as “the flavor pack.” Read more...

March 3, 2010

The Unhealthiest Salads in America

Men's Health & Eat This, Not That! name the worst salads in America.

The worst is at California Pizza Kitchen. Remember most people need just 2,000 calories a day. Women even less.

#1. California Pizza Kitchen Waldorf Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing (full)
1,570 calories
30 g saturated fat
2,082 mg sodium

CPK is no stranger to the title of “Worst Salad in America”—in fact, last year’s Thai Crunch Salad from California Pizza Kitchen won this dubious distinction for having over 2,000 calories.

#2. Cheesecake Factory Caesar Salad with Chicken
1,513 calories
16 g saturated fat
1,481 mg sodium
23 g carbohydrates

The top three words you never want to see sharing a space with “salad” on a menu: tuna, taco, and yes, the mighty Caesar.

#3. Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad with Oriental Vinaigrette
1,430 calories

This salad starts out with a bed of “Fresh Asian greens,” according to the menu. Unfortunately, these greens serve as a bed for deep-fried chicken tenders and carbohydrate-heavy crispy noodles. Without dressing, this dish rings in at 840 calories—already more than in an Applebee’s hamburger.

Read the others...