healthy menu planning for the new year - how restaurants can meet guests resolutions

How Restaurants and Chefs Can Delight Guests in the New Year: Support Their New Years’ Resolutions

Dec 16, 2021

The New Year is almost here, and for food service, 2022 is looking promising—some 70% of consumers feel comfortable returning to restaurants, and trips to restaurants were up 7% as of October 2021[1]. According to Intouch Insight’s latest Changes in Consumer Habits report, 11% of consumers reported eating at restaurants two or three times a week, up from 6% this spring. The report attributes this change, at least in some part, to reduced concerns around COVID-19 measures[2]. As consumers continue to return to restaurants, it will be essential to impress your guests and create loyalty to keep them coming in throughout 2022.

One way to do so is support their New Year’s resolutions—among the most common are healthy eating, weight loss, and dieting. As restaurants reopened late last year, we saw a heightened interest in healthy eating following the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on the retail side. In grocery stores, consumers gravitated toward fresh foods and claims-based meats. Restaurant guests were ready to indulge initially, prioritizing the experience, atmosphere, and delicious dishes that come along with fine dining. However, now that many consumers have returned to their favorite restaurants, we can expect the renewed interest in healthy eating to carry over to food service, especially as we ring in the New Year.

Here’s how you can keep your health-minded guests coming back in the new year.

1. Hop on the small menu trend: Offer a focused menu around healthy menu options.

Small menus are a growing trend for a reason—not only do small menus help you cut down on food waste and lower labor costs, but they also help you align your menu with your guests’ unique preferences. The New Year is the perfect time to roll out a new menu, and as guests begin their New Years’ resolutions, they’ll appreciate a menu that caters to their preferences for healthy foods. Since many guests could be experiencing decision fatigue from navigating a new diet, a small menu helps reduce that “choice paralysis” and can give your customers a break from trying to deduce which meal will work best for their weight loss goals.

A small menu can also indicate a healthy menu. A small menu’s minimalistic appearance, along with portion control and healthy menu options, can signal that you’re interested in supporting your guests’ health and wellbeing (and in decreasing food waste). Offering a small, healthy menu featuring lean meats and nutritious sides is an excellent way to meet customer needs while addressing some of the lingering impacts of the pandemic, such as supply chain issues.

Not to mention, small menus make it easy to switch menu items according to changing consumer preferences. Browse our small menu recommendations.

beef pad thai recipe

Featuring a controlled portion of New York Strip, this Beef Pad Thai recipe by Chef Sarah Faherty offers a nutritious, Asian-inspired dish perfect for a healthy restaurant menu.

2. Keep it fresh: Change up your healthy menu options regularly.

Whether you opt for a small menu or a larger one, swap your healthy menu options throughout the year. Keeping your menu fresh gives guests more healthy choices—many of which they might choose to try at home. While guests want to create fine dining at home, there’s also a fear of a disappointing experience or “messing up” a favorite cut of steak. As an expert in creating enjoyable eating experiences, you can demonstrate your chefs’ talents while giving your customers a respite from preparing their own healthy food. Whether you offer a healthy menu item unique to your restaurant or a fresh take on a salad (like this Cambodian Beef Salad with Lime Dressing), you’ll be sure to impress your customers—and keep them coming back to try the next dish.

Steak & Eggs w Colombian Aji Sauce Recipe

This protein-packed take on steak and eggs by Love in My Belly features a garnish of fresh Colombian Aji sauce for an extra fresh flavor.

Getting crafty with healthy menu ideas can also have other benefits. Using a versatile base for several dishes, such as Top Sirloin, avoids food waste and cuts down on costs. Remix ingredients into a new recipe or healthy menu idea to reduce food spoilage in your restaurant and expand offerings for your guests.

3. Talk the talk: Tell your guests about your efforts to be a healthy restaurant.

Developing your healthy menu plan for the new year is critical, but so is educating your consumers about your efforts to support their health. Telling your customers about how you prioritize their wellness will be especially crucial this new year as we continue to experience the effects of the pandemic.

“As consumers shake up their routines, restaurants have the chance to reach an entirely new group of clientele, and their messaging should reflect that … resolutions related to healthier habits routinely top the most popular list, which allows a brand to tout its latest spin on functional foods or veggie-packed salads.” –Waze, qtd. in Restaurant Dive

Sharing new menu items on social media and with guests at the table are the first steps, along with sharing the nutritional information and benefits of those dishes. However, partnering with suppliers who can help you tell your story is also important. Last year, JBS executive Greg DeBoer shared that customers are looking for the romance of the story behind their food, particularly when it comes to meat choices. Educating customers on the source of their food adds another proof point that your establishment is a healthy restaurant. As consumers become both more health-minded and socially aware, garnering their loyalty will take innovation in both menu development and messaging.

Attract more guests this holiday season with Aspen Ridge Natural Angus Beef

Whether you’re looking to develop a healthy menu or reach more guests with the story behind their food, Aspen Ridge® Natural Angus Beef can be a valuable partner. We work with restaurants to create menu items rich in protein and other nutrients, and we provide marketing support along the way. Raised without antibiotics or added hormones, Aspen Ridge beef helps attract even the most discerning consumers.

Offer your customers the ability to indulge in the flavors they enjoy without sacrificing nutrition. Talk to us today about adding Natural Angus beef to your menu and creating a healthy menu plan.


[1] Waze. “Are you ready for 2022? 5 New Year’s resolutions for restaurant operators.” Restaurant Dive. 2021.

[2] Intouch Insight. “Consumer habits: Aligning restaurants with the ‘new normal.’” Restaurant Dive. 2021.