Are you looking for a way to capitalize on your guests’ attempts to slim down, get their five-a-day, lower their cholesterol or just eat better? Soon, there will be a new tool to help you do just that, and customers will have a new way to choose the next place they’ll go for a sensible meal. The website HealthyDiningFinder. Com where people can search for and scope out restaurants offering smart food choices will launch soon and serve as both a marketing tool for restaurant operators and a decision-making tool for their guests.
Search for Restaurants
HealthyDiningFinder.com visitors can search for restaurants by zipping code, cuisine, price range or other criteria. Participating restaurant operators can post all their healthy offerings on the site, along with a nutrition analysis of those items, so customers choose their healthy meal before they even leave home.
Because Americans regularly turn to the Internet for nutrition and diet help, online exposure can be a great marketing move for restaurants. Healthy Dining, the San Diego company that runs the site, found that Yahoo! Users search for the terms “weight loss,” “diet,” “nutrition” and “obesity” three million times each month. Through website optimization, Healthy Dining founder Anita Jones promises that HealthyDiningFinder.com will be one of the first results listed when any of these terms are queried.
All restaurant types are invited to enroll. Any entries containing less than 750 calories and 25 grams of fat are eligible for listing. Participating restaurants usually list between four and ten items. AlthoughHealthy Dining discusses its pricing structure only with clients; Jones says the cost breaks down to “a couple of dollars per unit” each month.
For operators who don’t offer items fitting the criteria–or those who aren’t sure if a particular entree measures up–a Healthy Dining nutritionist will scan a menu for items that fit the criteria, or for items that could, with some tweaking, qualify for posting.
The company will also conduct nutrition analyses and update recipes to meet the guidelines. The intention is not to strip the dish of flavor or to jump on the latest trend. “The emphasis is on the balance of calories and fat, and in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins,” says Jones.
Healthy Dining began publishing directories of healthy Southern California eateries.
The Centers for Disease Control
Two years ago, the Centers for Disease Control, in keeping with its goal to help reverse the obesity epidemic, awarded Healthy Dining a grant to help launch HealthyDiningFinder. Com and broaden its scope beyond California. Around the same time, the National Restaurant Assn. Agreed to promote the effort to its members, and encourage them to join. There’s even a link on the NRA’s home page (www.restaurant.org).
Sheila Cohn, NRA’s director of nutrition policy, says she hopes the NRA’s endorsement “assures consumers they can trust the site.”
This essential trust, says Jones, is why the site is free of advertising. Revenues come from the participating restaurants, and the CDC grant is funding the marketing and educational campaigns.
Jones expects the site to go live before the end of the summer, and a marketing campaign aimed at consumers will launch in the upcoming weeks. She says representatives of Healthy-DiningFinder.com also will reach consumers through national news and talk shows.
“We’re receiving major support,” says Jones. American Express has sent mailers to its partner restaurants, encouraging them to join HealthyDiningFinder. com. Restaurant merchandising materials bearing the Healthy Dining Finder logo also will raise awareness.
Jones says participation shows guests their favorite restaurants are committed to their health. “We think it’s going to be a great reference source for Americans and a great marketing tool for restaurants.”