Food Trends

How to Leverage Lifestyle Diet Trends

Aug 19, 2020

How to Leverage Lifestyle Diet Trends

Paleo, Keto, Whole 30, flexitarian, vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, gluten-free—with so many emerging lifestyle diets and dietary restrictions, it can be challenging for restaurants to meet patrons’ diverse requirements.

But that doesn’t mean you should overlook these diets; now is the time to embrace their followers. Eighteen percent of consumers follow a specialty diet. That number jumps to 26% among those aged 18-34.1

“Lifestyle diet restrictions are top-of-mind for many patrons and play a crucial role in where they choose to dine out,” explains Simplot Foods Chef Roberto Roman. “If you can devote a portion of your menu to their dietary imperatives, you can attract a significant following.”

Current data show consumers describing themselves as:

  • Omnivore (74%)
  • Flexitarian (10%)
  • Vegetarian (3%)
  • Vegan (2%)
But that’s not the whole story. Americans also report being on diets that are:

  • High protein (18%)
  • Low fat (12%)
  • Dairy-free (10%)
  • Gluten-free (9%)
  • Keto (7%)
  • Soy-free (6%)
  • Kosher (6%)2
Customers want it customized

Accommodating a wide variety of diets is doable with some customizable options. Take sandwich chain Which Wich. They offer gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and Paleo options, offering customers choices in how they build their sandwich. Likewise the Paleo Club offers a sandwich with roasted turkey, applewood smoked bacon, avocado, fresh tomatoes, oil and vinegar, wrapped in lettuce. Wrapping sandwiches in lettuce instead of bread makes much of their menu gluten-free. Swap the turkey and bacon out for their black bean patty, and now you have a vegan-friendly sandwich.

Other large chain restaurants are offering this same kind of customizable meal. Olive Garden, an Italian chain restaurant known for its endless breadsticks, easily accommodates Keto dieters with meat and fish dishes featuring sides of low-carb veggies. Chipotle is another great example of meeting diners where they are with customizable options in a bowl format. They offer Paleo, Keto, Whole 30, vegetarian, and vegan bowls, riffing on the same ingredients, but in different combinations.

You can’t live on comfort food forever

Health and healthy eating habits are beginning to reassert themselves as the pandemic progresses. The International Food Information Council’s 2020 Food & Health Survey reported 85% of Americans have made at least some change in the food they eat or how they prepare it because of the coronavirus pandemic, with 27% of respondents saying they think about food more than usual. Forty-three percent say they have followed a specific diet or eating pattern within the past year, (an increase from 38% in 2019). What motivates people to adopt these eating habits:

  • Losing weight (47%)
  • Feeling better and having more energy (40%)
  • Improving physical appearance (39%)
  • Protecting long-term health and preventing future health concerns (37%)
  • Preventing weight gain (36%).3
Food trend experts predict an uptick in diets designed to lose weight following the early days of the pandemic, when consumers reported ordering “comfort food” at elevated levels across dayparts and occasions.4 People are eating healthier to be healthier, but also to lose the “Quarantine 15.” You can meet this demand by adding foods commonly associated with weight loss diets. Up your veggie side game, giving customers the option of choosing healthy, low-carb sides; or add vegetarian options to your menu (66% of consumers saying they perceive food and beverages at restaurants described as vegetarian to be healthy).5  Try new recipes like:

Gone are the days when the only vegetarian option on the menu was a baked potato. The lifestyle diet trend will be with us for some time to come. This is not a call to recreate your entire menu. All you need to do to match this trend is offer intelligent options on your existing items to help them meet various dietary requirements. After all, the more people you can appeal to, the better your bottom line.

1 Technomic, Inc., Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report, 2019
2 Datassential, 2020
3 International Food Information Council 2020 Food and Health Survey,
4 Technomic Foodservice Impact Monitor, 3rd Edition
5 Technomic, Inc., 2018 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report