Foodservice forum: Healthy eating

How do you promote healthy eating?

Pete Redman
Chef director, Bartlett Mitchell

The past year will have had a significant impact on our eating habits. So many people will have honed their culinary skills while longing for something cooked by somebody else. Having more active ownership of what they are consuming, people will be far more aware of what they are eating and how it can impact their day to day. Mealtimes have long been the highlight of any given working day for most, far more so when people have been at home. We see this as a real opportunity.

Most people working at home world have been doing the cupboard or fridge ‘grab and run’ when it comes to lunch, and it’s almost certainly cold food most of the time. We believe that hot, nutritious food is going to be a priority for most people when the world restores some order. We’ve always focused on making healthy and nutritious food since we started our business, and have developed this over the years through training and using experts to guide us.

In recent years, by working alongside our nutritionists and culinary teams, we’ve developed an understanding of why we use certain ingredients and cooking methods, which have often overtaken questions around ‘what’ to cook. We do know that branding anything we do as ‘healthy’ or ‘good for you’ can actually sometimes impact sales in a negative way, so we made a decision a while ago to ensure that we incorporate ‘healthy’ into our overarching mantra when it comes to menu writing. We will always ask: are these dishes seasonal, innovative, using the best produce, sustainably sourced and health beneficial?

In recent years, rather than push ‘healthy’, we have launched and integrated some amazing initiatives like our Vitality concept, which focused on giving customers full nutritional information to aid their food choices. This year we will be even more focused on how good food can affect not only our customers’ bodies, but their minds as well. It has been a tough time to say the least, so if we can play a small part in making things a bit easier for our customers through great food and outstanding service, then that’s what we will do.

Customers being more health conscience actually pushes our teams to be more thoughtful and creative with their menu planning and execution of dishes. The future, post Covid, will be no different. Healthy food will be regarded as standard wherever possible.

Nicky Martin
Head of nutrition, Compass Group UK and Ireland

Eating healthily is always important, but never more so than now, with official guidelines advising us to keep our immune systems strong and eating a diet that supports good health. Making changes to what we eat can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be, as a few simple actions can have a big impact.

At Compass, we are committed to promoting better health and wellbeing. Since being the first foodservice company to sit on the government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal Plenary Group in 2011, we have led the way in encouraging healthier choices for our clients, customers and colleagues, and we do this in a number of ways, taking into consideration the scope of people we serve. 

Access to education and information is key. Our teams work to provide materials on nutrition in all our restaurants; for example, using newsletters and factsheets. We also have a comprehensive website,, which contains content designed to improve and advise on nutrition. We have an Ask the Nutritionist hotline and we deliver webinars and information sessions, across our sectors on the importance of wellbeing alongside nutrition. We plan to develop this work further, using different technologies to enhance access to this information.

We use our insights around the latest behavioural science techniques to implement ways that encourage customers to choose healthier options. Healthy choices are always available across our menus and restaurants, and our Nudge Nudge initiative ensures that the healthy choice is the easiest. Our research, conducted with Footprint Media Group, found that using subtle nudges to encourage behaviour change can influence what people choose. This research pulls together the top tools into five action points that can be used to promote healthier choices:

•             Redesign menus using descriptive words and clear labelling

•             Change the food layout to profile healthy options

•             Encourage outlets to be lighter and greener

•             Guiding food decisions, through feel good education

•             Rethink what is on offer to help edit choices

We apply these subtle techniques across our restaurants to encourage uptake of more nutritious items wherever possible.

As well as this work, moving forward we’re focusing on the sustainability and health credentials of our offers, which can go hand in hand. We are continuing to develop concepts to contain a variety of veg-centric recipes and with an increasing amount meeting our sustainable criteria. We are working with our clients to conduct research into the best ways to develop and encourage uptake of these offers, and we continue to invest in our supplier partnerships in this area, alongside training for our people.

Dan Kelly
Deputy MD, food and operations, Vacherin

‘Healthy eating’ means different things to different people; typically our London customer base aren’t calorie counters (although they are interested in knowing the nutritional breakdown of their food). Instead, they follow a specific healthy eating regime, such as low carbs/high protein, plant-based, keto or intermittent fasting, to name a few. Often they follow a flexi-programme to bring balance to their eating habits… and therefore don’t have to forego special treats or wine with dinner – or feel guilty if they haven’t stuck rigidly to a plan.

Knowing our customers’ health and wellbeing priorities and food preferences determines what makes up our menus and how we communicate the health benefits to them. To accommodate as broad a spectrum of healthy eating plans as possible we keep our menus flexible, with plenty of options for our customers to build their dish their way. Our clientele generally has a very good knowledge base when it comes to food and nutrition – but they are hungry to learn more.

We work with nutritional therapist and chef Gary Baverstock who supports our chef development team in creating our healthy eating recipes, providing the nutritional data and staff training to ensure the consistent delivery of our programme. Our award-winning healthy eating concept Nutritious & Delicious (N+D) will be relaunched in April to reflect the shift to lifestyle-focused eating. N+D will launch with a wealth of supporting information on our customer app and on the dedicated website to help our customers make the food choices that are right for them, whether they are from the Strength, Vitality or Impact range. Tech will play a huge role in promoting N+D, and in facilitating the customisation and nutritional analysis of the menus in the range.

The programme is communicated through on-site workshops, organised by Gary and the management team. A workshop may be classroom-style and cover a particular topic such as immune support or gut health. We also offer cooking demos or 121 drop-in sessions at which our customers draw on Gary’s expertise for nutritional advice, weight management or overall wellbeing goals. We also provide a monthly Health Matters blog and on-site materials to promote healthy and seasonal ingredients.

Collaboration is key to the success of promoting healthy eating. We work very closely with our clients’ wellbeing, facilities and HR teams to ensure that there is synergy between our initiatives and messaging and the corporate wellbeing strategy. Our events complement a wider programme of activities. This collaboration extends to other service partners and our clients are benefiting from our partnership with their gym providers, as we offer a one stop shop to support the delivery of their physical and mental wellbeing agenda in their workplace.

But ultimately our people are our greatest ambassadors. By giving them the knowledge and harnessing their passion for food, they have the tools to confidently and expertly guide our customers to make the food choices that are right for them.