Customers are increasingly seeking a combination of healthy and fun dining


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With an increasing number of consumers seeking a healthy lifestyle in all aspects of their daily life, restaurants are recognizing that meeting such needs has to be part of their core business practices.

(Photo by Mike Mozart via Flickr (CC BY 2.0))

An expansion of the concept of mindfulness is changing the restaurant industry for the better. Just as many U.S. consumers are embracing meditation, they are also extending the concept to how they exercise and approach their diets.

This mix of mindful practices is informed by a holistic approach to health and wellness. Increasingly, that approach affects where consumers go when headed out for a casual meal with friends and family. It is also worth considering for investors keeping an eye on restaurant trends.

Mindful sourcing of meals

These days, health-minded consumers do not want to be limited to a choice between health food restaurants and guilty pleasures. They want the convenience and fun of casual restaurants while still pursuing a healthy lifestyle. In the old days, a steakhouse or burger joint was where one headed to break a diet. Increasingly, such restaurants are offering healthier options in the form of meals that are both healthy and enjoyable for the whole family.

PBS noted the intersection of mindfulness and wellness in its documentary “Mindfulness Goes Mainstream.” The documentary revealed a growing preference for “nourishing a complex ecosystem of healthy habits.” This rather complex sounding concept boils down to approaching all aspects of one’s life with an emphasis on health and wellness rather than simply focusing on spiritual practices, exercise or specialized diets.

This trend, which connects many, is leading to a sense of mindfulness throughout the day. In terms of food choices, such an approach emphasizes “mindful sourcing” and informed decision-making based on a knowledge of what one’s food and beverages contain. It is important to recognize that this development runs deeper than mere calorie counting, and that it requires restaurants to show that they are thinking of their customers’ health needs as well as their desires for recreational eating.

Big restaurant brands respond

Anita Jones-Mueller, CEO of Healthy Dining, recently interviewed Bloomin’ Brands Maria Caranfa for Restaurant Nutrition. They discussed how Caranfa, in her role as Global Nutrition Program Manager, is helping Bloomin’ Brands Inc (NASDAQ:BLMN) restaurants respond to such consumer trends as mindful sourcing. Bloomin’ Brands portfolio of restaurants includes Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and additional options ranging from quick casual to fine dining.

Caranfa’s role has multiple aspects from managing health and nutrition strategy and execution to supporting health and nutrition communications. That means she is key in both meeting the mindful sourcing needs of customers and communicating Bloomin’ Brands approach to consumers. She finds that the customers she serves are particularly interested in nutrition information and healthy options including plant-based menu items.

(Photo by Marco Verch via Flickr (CC BY 2.0))

Caranfa’s experience with such national initiatives as menu labelling has also given her a perspective on the bigger picture beyond Bloomin’ Brands. She says that she has seen restaurants embrace health and nutrition as “part of their core business practices.” In the case of Bloomin’ Brands restaurants, that emphasis has led to healthier casual dining menus and a stronger emphasis on nutritionally sound kids’ menus.

Though Caranfa did not discuss Bloomin’ Brands’ bottom line, it’s clear that customer preferences ultimately drive restaurant profits. And that is why investors should be paying close attention to such trends.

Of course, Bloomin’ Brands is a well-established investment option. For those investors seeking new growth options and wanting to get in on the ground floor, restaurant chains like Illegal Burger are demonstrating not just where things stand now but where they are heading.

Rising stars lead the way

Illegal Burger is a quick casual restaurant chain owned and operated by West Coast Ventures Group Corp (OTCMKTS:WCVC). The Illegal Burger chain is based in the Denver area and is in early growth mode with plans for national expansion. Illegal Burger has already established an approach that attracts customers focused on mindful sourcing as well as those simply looking for a fun night out.

The core of Illegal Burger’s approach is to offer burgers made with fresh, all-natural beef that is never frozen. In addition, the beef is sourced from suppliers who use no antibiotics or growth hormones. Each burger is prepared to order and the menu includes such healthy options as chicken dishes and salads. Those seeking plant-based options are also well-served given that Illegal Burger’s Vegan Burger won a Denver Top Ten Vegan Burger award.

Theoretically, any Bloomin’ Brands operation could achieve similar goals, but Illegal Burger is now taking things to the next level with the addition of cannabidiol (CBD)-infused menu items. CBD is widely recognized for its healing and soothing properties and many consumers prefer it in edible form.

Having introduced its first CBD menu item, the Illegal CBD Infused Burger Bowl, for the recent 420 celebrations, Illegal Burger has much more in store as it seeks to meet its customers’ desires for healthy eating.

More options for everyone

For both consumers and investors, health and wellness trends are leading to more opportunities to eat well and invest intelligently. Consumers have a wide range of dining options—and investors have the opportunity to put their money on established brands as well as up-and-coming stars of the future.

Haris Saeed
An experienced professional with more than 9 years of working experience and a performance leader in internet technologies, including -Web Research, Analysis and Architecture Search Engine Optimization.


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