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Study shows low-calorie menus good for business

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Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 12:15 am

A new study released this month showed that serving lower-calorie options is not only good for customers’ health, but it’s also good for business.

With calorie counts now appearing in more restaurants, some Gainesville residents have noticed chains offering healthier options.

Electra Posada, 45, left a local Cracker Barrel Tuesday afternoon with a grilled chicken sandwich for her son.

For Posada, restaurants with healthier options help her and other families make sure they can watch what they eat.

“I think it’s great that they have a low-cal menu,” she said.

Fast-food and sit-down restaurant chains that serve more low-calorie foods had sales growth, increases in restaurant traffic and gains in overall restaurant servings, according to the study, which was released by the Hudson Institute.

The study analyzed 21 restaurant chains, including McDonald’s, Applebee’s, Cracker Barrel and Taco Bell.

Restaurants that increased lower-calorie servings showed a 10 percent increase in total sales and a 10.9 percent increase in traffic since 2006.

Richard J. Lutz, J.C. Penney marketing professor at UF, said he’s not surprised at the popularity of healthier options at restaurants.

“People are generally more aware that calories make a difference,” he said.

Lutz said companies that put calorie information on their menus are pioneering a trend, will soon required by all restaurants because of the Affordable Care Act.

“This puts the information in front of the consumer that they wouldn’t know off the top of their head,” he said.

Jeanne Ludington, corporate communications manager for Cracker Barrel, said the restaurant wanted to make more healthy meals available to customers.

Along with cornbread muffins, chicken dumplings and biscuits, Ludington said, the restaurant has more fresh fruit and vegetable selections such as fresh lettuce and baby greens.

Cracker Barrel refreshed its salad selections during the summer because customers generally eat lighter and healthier during the summertime, Ludington said.

“We have a great interest in serving better-for-you offerings,” she said.

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