New menu-labeling guidelines for restaurants scheduled to take effect in May 2018 are necessary but not sufficient to create the tipping point toward healthy default eat-out options for Americans.
The U.S. restaurant sector has made underwhelming progress to promote healthy and profitable choices for customers over more than 10 years (2006-2017). The National Restaurant Association has projected U.S. eating establishment sales to exceed $550 billion dollars in 2017, representing 48 percent of household income that Americans spent on food.
Quick service restaurants, fast casual and full-service restaurant chains are not yet fully committed to change industry-wide practices that drive poor diet quality, obesity and rates of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, and one-third of children are obese. It’s not getting any better, and chain and independent restaurants are contributing to the problem.
The restaurant sector needs to apply comprehensive marketing and nudge strategies to encourage American customers to make healthier choices.
Along with a team from Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise (HNFE), our research in July 2017 urged restaurants to adopt a comprehensive marketing-mix and choice-architecture strategies dubbed the Eight P’s: Place, Profile, Portion, Pricing, Promotion, Picks, Priming or Prompting and Proximity.
Our research at Virginia Tech looked at how we can think holistically about what the restaurant industry as a sector can do to be part of the solution to reduce the dietary risks associated with excessive weight gain and increased heart diseases in the U.S.