Monday, November 3, 2014

Changing perceptions about fast food restaurants-How long the new trend will last?

Fast foods and junk foods are almost synonymous and both of them are set to decline their influence on American consumers in the coming years, if a perceptible trend noticed  among younger population regarding their food preferences is any indication. Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, French Fries are all iconic in the landscape of the "eating out" consumers but there appears to be a fatigue developing among the people regarding the desirability of consuming them if they have to avoid life style diseases like CVD, Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Obesity etc. Constant exposure of the younger generation consumers to the "cause and effect" of junk food eating, emergence of organic foods as a major player in the market and greater awareness about the health advantages of fruits and vegetables seem to be persuading them to shun junk foods and fast foods. California where the "vegetable" revolution is taking shape a number of chain restaurants are attempting to offer stiff challenges to the well established fast food giants by attracting more and more clients offering them tasty foods based on vegetables stressing that they are great in quality and safety though the health advantages are not over sold. Here is a commentary on this development which may be a fore runner of what will happen eventually around the world in the coming years. 

"America's interest in locally sourced and healthy foods has spurred a boom in farmers markets and farm-to-table restaurants and has expanded organic produce at the supermarket. Now, a number of upstart chains trying to tap that interest are taking aim at traditional fast food by moving leafy greens and fruits to the center of the plate.
These rapidly expanding restaurants want to revolutionize the fast-food industry, bringing healthy fare to the masses who typically don't shop at Whole Foods. At the same time, they are stealing customers from stalwarts such as McDonald's.The most bankable word in food service is fresh.- Restaurant consultant Aaron Allen These chains, several based in California, see a juicy opportunity in the Golden State, with its bounty of health-obsessed diners interested in the latest food fads. Such chains make up just a tiny fraction of the $200-billion fast-food industry in the United States. But analysts predict this sector will boom as health-conscious consumers ditch the burger and fries in favor of quickly prepared healthy meals. "The most bankable word in food service is fresh," said restaurant consultant Aaron Allen. Many are rethinking the fast-food experience beyond food. At some, you'll find real china replacing paper dishes and foam cups for in-house eating. There are cushy chairs and communal tables, not plastic ones that are nailed down. Several offer beers from local breweries and menus that change with the seasons. "People want to eat more vegetables that are nutritious and unprocessed," said Greg Dollarhyde, chief executive of Santa Monica-based chain Veggie Grill. "The big trend now is make it better for me, but I don't want to give any flavors up." Many of these restaurants cater to salad skeptics or meat lovers who shy away from anything green or overly healthy. "I don't like saying the H word because that's going to turn people off," said Mike Donahue, co-founder of Lyfe Kitchen, which has expanded to 13 locations since opening its first restaurant in Palo Alto in 2011. "I tell our people they have got to start every message with, 'Tastes great, tastes great, tastes great. And oh, by the way, it is good for you.'"

There is this Soup Plantation chain where customers can pick up at least two dozens of salad combinations selecting from a range of vegetables and adjuncts which can have a variety of flavors and taste when assembled on the plate. Similarly there is the Veggie Grill chain which strategically plans its marketing to attract clients without overs selling the health claims. All these new players are exploiting the strength of organic food and locally made food movements to carve out for them selves a viable market which if the present growth is any indication will sideline many of the existing fast food chains in attracting customers in the coming years. Innovative design of eating places and use of china wares provide a different eating experience compared to the staid ambienc associated with many of the established fast food chain restaurants. When one looks at the present trend, credit must be given to the good old Subway restaurants which offer, though through a fast food format, some of the most healthy menus predominantly based on vegetables. No doubt this is a welcome development for Americans who face a bleak future caught between the juggernauts of fast foods, junk foods, GMO foods and heavy meat based foods.    


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