Food fads used to be all about flavour, these days your customers are more likely to be interested in your dishes’ chemical content. Sarah Norris delves into what the latest health trends are and how to get them on your menu.
There haven’t been two words more divisive than those uttered in 2012 by chef and TV personality Pete Evans. When asked by a Sunday paper to describe his day on a plate, he listed ‘activated almonds’ as a go-to 3pm snack. He became not only the laughing stock of Twitter, but poster boy for the crazy lengths people were taking in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.
Fast-forward to 2016 and we’re not just seeing celebrities such as Evans incorporate ingredients like these into their diet. Everyday people are becoming increasingly concerned with what they put into their bodies.
Tawnya Bahr ex-chef and owner of Tawnya Bahr Food Consulting says food trends do come and go, but there are benefits for restaurants and cafés in offering dishes that incorporate healthy-eating. “Consumer purchasing decisions can be influenced by trends, so it’s about tapping into those trends.”
She emphasises that it’s not a case of all in or all out. You can mix aspects of these styles of foods and ingredients into your menu. “I like menus that have something for everyone. So if you’re on a paleo diet, you’re a vegetarian or gluten intolerant—whatever the situation—you can find something on the menu or a dish can be easily modified to accommodate these tastes.”
But, appealing to customers is only half the game for restaurant and café owners. Those wanting to weigh in on new health trends need to know how to best balance the costs with the benefits—free-range eggs and organic almonds can come at a hefty fee.
George Hataziour, manager of Café Perons in Double Bay, said food “does cost a lot more being from farm to table.
“You’ve just got to be really careful with what you buy. If some items are running through the roof, we will try to minimise using them and maybe for that week try and make different dishes to really cut down on cost.”
But it’s not (and shouldn’t be) just about health foods: “You have to have more than just trends on offer: a couple comes in and one might want a burger and the other wants a gluten free frittata. I’m now catering for all of those aspects—I just put in a deep-fryer as well,” said Hataziour.
The food movements you need to know about (and how to manage them)
The word paleo is short for ‘paleolithic’, a period about 2.6 million years ago, and works on the principal that we should follow the lead of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. That means meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, eggs and seeds are in and dairy, sugar, legumes, most oils and salts are out. Paleo options can be easily managed within your existing menu by adopting a ‘swap’ mentality. Offer customers side exchanges—from fries to a side salad you already serve.
New York Times best-selling author Sarah Wilson has been promoting a sugar-free life. The Sydneysider came to prominence with her book I Quit Sugar advocating people replace sugar and processed food with nutrient-dense foods and complex, unrefined carbohydrates such as veggies, whole grains and legumes.
These are products grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers, hormones and genetic modification. Organic food is said to be of a higher nutritional quality but in order to qualify, government certification is required.
It is also much more expensive, selling for a price 10–50 per cent higher than that of conventional products. But, organic converts tend to be aware of the increase, so costs can be passed along.
As the name suggests, this is food that has not been cooked or processed. People argue raw foods contain more enzymes and nutrients than cooked food, and are therefore better for you.
Every restaurant has a fresh salad on the menu. But, the greatest change to come from the raw food diet is in desserts. Raw desserts are often more time consuming to make but, if made and marketed correctly, can prove to be worth the effort.
This ancient practice is achieved by soaking an ingredient in salt water so it can grow live bacteria or probiotics. Sauerkraut and kimchi are just two bacteria-boosting foods said to assist digestion and restore proper balance in the gut. Unlike other health food trends, it’s surprisingly cost effective and easy to manage. All you need is a jar and some salt water or vinegar, and you’re ready to ferment and pickle.
Want to tap into these trends? Here’s a few small changes you can make to your menu
Switch to free-range eggs.
Although they cost more, customers will appreciate (and pay for) the ethical choice.
Existing menu items can easily match health trends with bread alternatives.
This could be sprouted or seeded bread for the paleo and gluten free or even lettuce cups and ‘nori’ seaweed as low-carb/sugar-free options.
The green smoothie epitomises clean-living—they’re dairy-free, raw and packed with nutrients. Made in a blender they’ll require limited staff training and their health properties make them an easy cross-sell for a range of healthy diets.
Switch your vegetarian option for a vegan one.
You cover both markets without having to bring in extra produce to cater for different diets.