Attract traveling business diners by emphasizing healthier food options.

In a 2018 article from the Harvard Business Review, numerous data points identified serious health risks associated with business travel, including anxiety, depression, alcohol dependence, and trouble sleeping—all of which results in fallout for employers, from decreased productivity to higher incidence of medical insurance claims.

Many of these health risks can be correlated with the dining choices made by business travelers, who may often be faced with grabbing food on-the-go and easily overlook healthy options. Employers, meanwhile, are more diligent than ever in encouraging employees to seek out healthy dining options when traveling. 

“Corporations are raising awareness about the negative effects of poor dining habits on the road,” says Kristen Hoffman, director of restaurant marketing for Dinova, “and they are looking for ways to arm their traveling employees with information they can use to make healthier lifestyle decisions.”

According to research published in 2018 from Dinova and the Global Business Travel Association, 64 percent of business travelers want healthy menu options while they’re on the go. Of those, 23 percent are interested in vegetarian or vegan options and 18 percent require gluten-free offerings.

“Forty-three percent of business travelers read published nutritional information prior to dining,” Hoffman says. “Why not make it easy for them? When they’re on the road, in and out of meetings all day, the last thing road warriors want to do is ask a million questions before they can feel good about their meal choices.”

In order to attract business travelers, Hoffman says that operators need to publish details about any menu options that fit top diets (Keto, Paleo, etc.) or allergen requirements, and offer interactive nutritional tools, so that would-be diners can customize their meals according to their needs before ever sitting down to order. Here, we look at three healthy dining trends that traveling business diners are interested in now.

1. Specialty Diet Options

“As consumers look to change their dining habits, many find that diets such as Keto, Whole30, Paleo, and South Beach can be effective ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle—even while traveling,” Hoffman says. “Calling out this information is especially critical for attracting business travelers, who often struggle to eat well when a large portion of their days and nights are spent on the road.”

Healthy menu callouts help operators differentiate their restaurants as helpful dining allies. BJs Restaurant and Brewhouse locations, for example, offer a dedicated Enlightened Favorites menu, featuring an assortment of low-calorie entree items, and Zoës Kitchen offers a wide variety of Whole30 menu items.

2. Vegan and Vegetarian Items

With an increasing percentage of consumers adopting vegan, vegetarian, or plant-forward diets, restaurants that provide customizable meals or specialize in plant-based fare can expect to see more traffic when their vegan and vegetarian offerings are called out.

“Restaurant partners that are dedicated to a specific dietary category—such as vegetarian— make selecting healthy dining options a no-brainer for travelers,” Hoffman says. “Your dietary identity can absolutely help drive business diner traffic.”

Many restaurants are embracing new dietary trends by featuring plant-based zones. Longtime Dinova partner Veggie Grill has built their entire brand on making vegetarian and vegan food appealing to staunch plant-eaters and carnivores alike. Other brands, such as Lazy Dog Restaurants and Little Beet Table, make a point of identifying vegetarian and vegan options throughout their menu with visual indicators.

3. Gluten-free Offerings

According to a recent study from The Hartman Group, 8 percent of respondents reported a gluten intolerance, and it is projected that up to 10 percent of consumers have a gluten or wheat sensitivity of some kind.

“It helps to showcase items that meet consumers’ dietary restrictions in ways they can easily find,” Hoffman says. “Sound cross-contamination avoidance practices are also critical to attracting more health-conscious business diners, as well as those who have food intolerances.”

Many national brands have realized that gluten-free options are critical to their diners and ensure they have options ready and waiting. California Pizza Kitchen, for example, offers a certified gluten-free crust, while Bonefish Grill and Outback Steakhouse offer a variety of gluten-free menu items, including desserts. By incorporating these callouts onto menus, operators can better ensure that business travelers seeking better-for-them food will come through the door.

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