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BITAC® - Dissecting Dishes

Today at BITAC® F&B we examined changing portion sizes, calorie counts and overall profitability as customers start to think more about healthier eating.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
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Did you know the average restaurant portion size in America has quadrupled since the 1950s? That is not a misprint; Americans today are getting an average of four times as many calories per plate of food as they did when Truman was in office.

And though the world has been introduced to some great new expandable pants technologies to help keep increasing waist sizes in check, overall Americans are suffering due to increasing guts.

However, not all hope is lost. Americans are starting to catch on that perhaps their typical diet is probably not the best for overall health and longevity, and it is just starting to affect domestic food culture. Though your hotel may not feel it today, we firmly believe you’ll want to start rethinking your restaurant’s dining approach to stay ahead of your customer’s stomachs.

“People want to eat healthy and are looking for healthy options. They are looking for fresher ingredients, prepared the right way. They want healthier stuff, and we have to provide it in the right-sized portions,” said Vince Barrett said VP Food & Beverage, New Castle Hotels & Resorts.

At this week’s BITAC® Food & Beverage East taking place at the luxurious El Conquistador Resort in Puerto Rico, attendees are in the mood to talk food. And today we focused on dissecting some dishes to fully maximize emerging trend potential. BITAC® is of course the industry’s preeminent idea exchange and at this sold out event attendees not only got a chance to network with top industry F&B decision makers, but also get the inside track on what is really happening in the hotel business.

One of the educational highlights at BITAC® is the use of a real time polling system to gauge crowd opinion. So we asked them about the right sizing of meal portions. In all we can definitely see a trend to smaller food portions with 71 percent generally seeing a shift to smaller manageable portions while 28 percent still believe portions are too big. Just one percent believes portion sizes are increasing.

Be it tapas or a healthier approach to eating, big is definitely not always better these days. But smaller portions do not have to mean lower profits.

At Joie de Vivre Hotels & Restaurants, Vice President of F&B Morgan Plant said people are still used to large plates in the middle of country but on the west coast where Joie de Vivre is based people are likelier to be good with smaller portions. The trick is up-selling them past the main course.

“We want to encourage [customers] to order a couple of starters or a dessert,” said Plant.

Aside from portion sizes it’s also about overall calorie counts which are coming into focus for a lot of people. And places like New York City demand that a restaurant chain that has more than a certain number of outlets (10 for NYC) they must put calorie counts on menus. The effect is most defiantly changing the way people eat.

“If you put calories on menus, it will change how people order. But you have to be sure that’s what you want to do. We have to be sure we design the menu to reflect lower calorie counts,” said Chris Quilty, VP F&B with Hersha Hospitality Management.

On a personal note it has most definitely affected the way my meal mates and I order when we look and see an item is 2,000 calories.

But lowering calorie counts on menu items doesn’t have to mean exchanging the tasty for the bland. As we said in yesterday’s article, there are ways to make substitutions that lowers total calories without sacrificing full flavor.

“We need to get out of our own way. We are afraid to make the leap. You can’t have a 3,800 calorie dish on the menu anymore, people get spooked by that. So what we do is put calorie counts on a dozen or so of our items and we think about how can we alter a recipe to get it down to a reasonable calorie count. Maybe we have to work with a different vendor or add more greens to the plate and have less starch and less protein. Make the food the artwork and move beyond our own paradigms,” said Barrett.

More vegetables means more profits, according to James (Ben) Cotrell, the Executive Chef at the San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina. “If you do a vegetarian driven menu, margins are much better. We are finding it advantageous to build menus around vegetables,” said Cotrell.

“It’s all about trying to find right amount of the right selections. And it has to be something that will interest the average consumer,” said Quilty.

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