Healthy eating is a priority for a growing number of consumers, and the National Restaurant Association’s 2014 Restaurant Industry Forecast reports seven out of 10 consumers say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers healthy options.
The challenge becomes connecting customers to the restaurants with the options that best suit their individual needs. Consequently, a number of mobile apps have emerged that steer consumers to those restaurants and help highlight the healthy items on their menus.
The website HealthyOut provides consumers with an intuitive tool that allows them to match healthy restaurant dishes to their specified health preferences, from low-carb to gluten-free. Founder Wendy Nguyen believes her mobile app differs from others because HealthyOut works with all restaurants—not just those focused on health—but displays only the dishes that meet HealthyOut standards for healthy nutrition.
“We want to only highlight the restaurant’s healthy dishes,” says Nguyen. “Every restaurant—from steakhouses to your neighborhood deli—has some healthy choices.”
The app also includes modifications to dishes that can make them healthier, which Nguyen says a number of other apps don’t do. “Remove the cheese and ditch the side serving of bread, and now an entrée that might not have been healthy meets our standards,” she says, which helps restaurants take existing items on their menu and make slight modifications so they become healthier.
Launched in 2012, the HealthyOut app is free to restaurants and consumers, and includes restaurant photos of food to help increase customer engagement. Plans call for online ordering to soon become available via the app. Already, the technology can identify healthy dishes on a menu and automatically add them to the app.
On the consumer side, HealthyOut allows users to define what is healthy in their own terms. Users simply access the website and select dietary and nutritional preferences such as vegetarian, low-carb, or gluten-free.
By working with HealthyOut since April 2013, Amy Luong, co-founder of Mooncake Foods, which has three locations in New York City, says the restaurants have attracted an audience that “might not necessarily think of us as healthy.”
Furthermore, she says that by making small adjustments to existing dishes, “we’ve been able to use our menu pretty much as is to service healthy diners. We can still serve the food we make, but do things like cut the rice portions in half or leave the sauces on the side.”