SALAD DAYS

Consumers are taking their health-consciousness with them to the dinner table, even to their favorite restaurants.According to the National Restaurant Association's 2005 Industry Forecast, entree-salad orders are showing the biggest increase of all menu items at both full-service and quick-service restaurants. The finding was one of the highlights of this year's report, the NRA noted.Quick-service

Consumers are taking their health-consciousness with them to the dinner table, even to their favorite restaurants.

According to the National Restaurant Association's 2005 Industry Forecast, entree-salad orders are showing the biggest increase of all menu items at both full-service and quick-service restaurants. The finding was one of the highlights of this year's report, the NRA noted.

Quick-service restaurants report increasing consumer interest in entree salads, and 78% of operators polled said they are now receiving more of those orders. Full-service restaurants also reported an increasing number of orders for entree salads now compared to two years ago. Specifically, 52% of casual dining restaurants agreed, while 45% of family dining and 39% of fine dining establishments reported the same.

"Today, we're seeing increasing consumer interest in healthful options, and restaurants are reporting increased sales of entree salads, bottled water, vegetable and fruit side dishes, and poultry, for example. We're also seeing restaurants help educate their guests about the importance of healthy lifestyles by offering brochures, pedometers and even gym-memberships, clearly underscoring that the restaurant industry is part of the solution to create a healthful U.S.," said Steven Anderson, the NRA's president and chief executive officer.

Other healthy items are flying off menus these days, according to the NRA report.

The forecast found that QSR operators reported an increase in popularity of bottled water (69%) and poultry (62%). At full-service restaurants, all segments reported increasing numbers of side vegetable, side fruit and poultry orders. Restaurants will also continue to encourage their guests to customize existing menu items. In fact, nine out of 10 full-service operators and four out of five QSR operators will alter preparation methods upon request.

Restaurants are catering to children, too. There was an increase in the number of parties for children under 13 at restaurants across the country. In response, 41% of family- and casual-dining restaurants said they offer a greater variety of healthful options on their kids' menus than they did two years ago, and 29% of fine dining operators are as well.