Is Offering Smaller Portions Profitable? A Restaurant Guide to Giving Diners Choices

Diners are sick of super-sizing, and restaurants are responding by offering the option of smaller portions.

Diners are sick of super-sizing, and restaurants are responding by offering the option of smaller portions. Photo credit: Unsplash user Quentin Lagache.

Super-sizing was once the hottest trend in the food industry, with the motto “the bigger, the better” ringing true in the minds of restaurant owners and American diners alike. But recently, we have been seeing portion sizes shift in the opposite direction.

Despite the Trump administration’s delay of the FDA menu labeling law to enforce calorie counts on menus in chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, the healthy food movement is not going anywhere. Thanks to the growing consciousness around the direct link between diet and health, the American public is becoming increasingly concerned with what and how much they eat. In response, restaurants are stepping up and taking matters into their own hands.

Offering smaller portions of regular menu items is one strategy restaurants can use to satisfy their customers and potentially increase sales. Providing voluntary calorie labeling or in-depth nutritional information are other ways restaurants can meet the demand for healthier options. If your restaurant is looking to empower diners to make informed decisions about their food choices, it is wise to consider the many benefits of implementing both these strategies in your establishment.

What Offering Smaller Portion Sizes Means for Restaurants

With portions of many food items exceeding the USDA recommended serving size by up to 700% and obesity rates skyrocketing, Americans are well aware that something needs to change with respect to their food. And given that over one-third of the calories the average American consumes is eaten outside the home, the public wants more choice when it comes to restaurant food.

The growing focus on weight loss and management, mindful eating, and healthy living means consumers are much more discerning about how much food they put in their bodies, and offering smaller portions could be an effective way of attracting and pleasing the health/weight conscious demographic. One study showed that when given a choice to downsize side-dish portions at a Chinese restaurant, as many as one-third of diners chose to have less food. Offering smaller portion sizes or half-portions, which would incidentally halve the calories, could also be attractive to customers looking for cheaper options. This way, everyone can find something that fits both their appetite and their budget.

From a restaurant perspective, providing smaller portions is a creative way of potentially growing an existing customer base. It would, however, mean that operations would change slightly in order to prepare smaller portion sizes. For example, bakeries may have to purchase smaller muffin tins, and recipes for made-to-order foods like smoothies or milkshakes might require adjustments. It could also mean that more people will choose smaller, less expensive items. Over time, however, this change will likely have a positive effect on a restaurant’s revenue, as food cost and waste decrease the more people choose smaller portions.

Voluntary Calorie Labeling May Expand Your Customer Base

If you do choose to provide the option of smaller portions at your restaurant, it is important that you provide calorie counts for each of your menu items so diners can easily compare amounts from both portion sizes. Even if you decide not to offer smaller portion sizes, however, providing calorie counts has many benefits.

The fact that over 50% of Americans report wanting access to calorie information at restaurants is reason enough to provide them on your menu, as there is no doubt about public demand. Not only does providing calorie counts allow customers to make informed decisions about their food, it provides a level of transparency—something that is necessary for gaining and strengthening the trust of your diners.

Because of the delay in the FDA’s implementation of mandatory calorie labeling on menus, voluntary calorie labeling could actually set you apart from other establishments and make your menu more appealing to diners. With no strict government guidelines to adhere to at the moment, you can provide calorie counts in any format you like without having to reprint all your menus. Printing a few separate sheets with calorie amounts that diners can request or posting calorie counts on your online menu are two ideas for easy implementation.

Of course, determining the calorie counts by performing nutritional analysis on your menu items is also necessary. Contrary to popular belief, however, this doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Using a reputable online nutritional analysis software means you can do the analysis yourself in minutes by simply signing into your secure account and inputting your recipes.

In-Depth Nutritional Analysis of Menu Items for Diners with Special Diets

Calorie counts are only a fraction of the information online nutritional analysis software provides; a full nutritional profile complete with amounts of micro and macro nutrients is also generated when you input your recipes. Having this information available is particularly useful for diners with special diets or health conditions that require a certain intake of fats, carbs, protein, or vitamins and minerals.

FDA compliant nutritional analysis software like MenuCalc also provides nutrient content claims (NCCs), like “low-fat,” for your menu items so you can use them as selling features. Plus, allergen information is generated for each recipe so diners with particular sensitivities are informed of the dishes they should not consume.

Given the growing number of people with special diets or who are simply watching their calorie intake, offering a complete nutritional profile, calorie counts, smaller portions sizes (or all three) is a worthwhile endeavor for your restaurant. We live in an age where choice and information are more important than ever, especially when it comes to food. While there will be some upfront work for your restaurant—like creating a workflow for smaller portions and performing detailed nutritional analysis—with the right resources, the benefits for your restaurant and your diners will far outweigh the costs.

Are you ready to take your restaurant to a new level by offering smaller portion sizes, calorie counts, or detailed nutritional information? MenuCalc provides user-friendly, affordable FDA-approved nutritional analysis for all your restaurant’s needs. Contact us today to learn more.

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