Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called on foodservice operators to make their desserts smaller and/or less sweet, as part of the government’s ongoing anti-obesity drive. One suggestion is that restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes could even be ‘named and shamed’ for their pudding policy on a new website.
Understandably, the announcement has attracted plenty of criticism from across the industry and further afield as yet another example of the pervading ‘nanny state-ism’. The customers in these outlets, goes the argument, are adults who should be allowed to make their own decisions on what they eat and drink without censure or disapproval.
It’s also been cited as evidence of the government’s ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’ approach: because some people have trouble controlling their calorie intake, everyone has to have their choice reduced. Most operators are, of course, much closer to customers’ actual ordering habits than the Department of Health and see the trading-off that frequently happens: chips swapped for seasonal veg with the main course to allow the diner a guilt-free pudding, for example, or a dessert shared between two people.
However out-of-touch and imperfect the hospitality sector may find this latest missive from our policymakers, we can’t ignore it. Of course growing levels of obesity – and the Type 2 diabetes that often goes with it – aren’t all down to over-consumption of sugary foods: our sedentary lifestyles and lack of exercise also play a part.
There’s no doubt, though, that the government is going to continue to look for changes across the food industry: manufacturers, retailers and the food service sector. If the industry isn’t seen to respond voluntarily, there’s always the threat of legislation in the background.
So, on the basis that change is going to come, how can operators embrace it and even turn it to their advantage? How can you continue to offer a range of desserts that allow customers to indulge, while also ‘ticking the box’ on healthier eating? At Lynx Purchasing, we think there are plenty of opportunities to adapt your desserts without compromising on taste, or on your GP:
Cut sugar not sweetness: If you buy in desserts, talk to your suppliers about whether they offer any reduced sugar alternatives. Ask for samples and run a ‘taste test’ involving your staff team and perhaps even customers: some desserts work better than others in a low-sugar format, so do your research to find the best. The same principle applies if your desserts are made in-house: task your kitchen team with taking out some of the sugar while keeping in all the taste.
Fresh fruit: a platter of fresh fruits can be a tasty, low calorie and appealing dessert option. You can focus on fruits in season when they are at their best, and supplement this with more unusual fruits like starfruit or pomegranates alongside the familiar favourites. Speak to your fresh produce supplier regularly and vary the mix to ensure good value. Keep the description on the menu broad to allow for regular updating, and make sure the presentation on the platter looks attractive. By adding a fresh smoothie menu as well, fruits can double up and so wastage is reduced.
Cheese please: a well-assembled cheese board makes an interesting alternative to dessert and with the explosion in artisan cheese-making, there are plenty of possibilities. Local cheeses are always popular, and variations which include seasonal fruits, for example, allow you to update the offer. A specialist cheese supplier will offer advice on creating a cheese board and supply the notes on their provenance which should be shared with customers.
‘Easy wins’: for desserts where cream, ice cream or custard are an accompaniment rather than the main event, look to replace it with low-fat and/or low-sugar versions.
Plate appeal: if you’re reducing portion sizes, think about how it’s going to look on the plate and whether it will still appear good value to the customer. Adding some fresh fruit garnish, or a small portion of cream, ice cream or custard in a small jug on the plate, can all help boost your desserts’ plate appeal.
However you decide to adapt your dessert offer, make sure that whatever variations you make don’t have an adverse impact on your GP. Lynx Purchasing’s GP Calculator App, which is endorsed by the Craft Guild of Chefs, enables chefs, caterers and restaurant managers to monitor margins in busy kitchens or when negotiating with suppliers, using a smartphone or tablet. To download the FREE App, go to:
For Android: Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App on Google Play
Lynx Purchasing works with more than 2,200 hospitality and catering operators to match them with the best suppliers and get the best possible prices on food and drink, as well as a whole range of essential products and services. Lynx’s buying experts help operators buy better and save time and money, year after year.