Restaurant 2.0

As the Consumer Driven Health movement marches on delivering a growing number of exciting products and services aimed at helping us make informed decisions, new downstream opportunities present themselves. How will our dining-out experience change for example? What will the restaurant of the future look like? This post looks at these questions and presents 3 possible scenarios for Restaurant 2.0 – The Community Restaurant, The Nutritionist and The Curated Menu.

It’s time to admit we made a mistake

The USA Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a thought provoking animated map showing the percentage of adults with Body Mass Index (BMI) >30% by state from 1985 to 2010. Today, more than one third of adults are obese in the United States. England is not far behind with obesity rates at 26% according to the National Health Service report titled Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet: England 2012. By 2015 researchers predict 1 in 10 people worldwide will be obese. We really need to hold our hands up and admit we have taken a wrong turn at some point in the past 50 years and mostly played it wrong when it comes to nutrition. New studies challenging conventional thinking are being published, such as the recent Hunter-Gatherer Energetics and Obesity Study which suggests Westerners are growing obese through over-eating rather than having inactive lifestyles.

Have you ever found it strange how:

  • the produce section is often smaller than the pharmacy section in most supermarkets?
  • sugary drinks and foods loaded in saturated fats are available en mass.
  • it’s possible to justify eating cheese burgers, fries and soda everyday even when following the USDA food pyramid.
  • we buy stock in companies, which one could argue with little objection, turn profits from slowly killing us. Then, being the gracious creatures we are, we praise them for their success. Heck many of us even work at these companies.

Next time you are sitting in a restaurant look around – are the plates arriving at tables offering a balanced meal with correct portions of proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats? Good restaurants do exist – take a look at those run by The Bon Appetite Management Company for example – however I’m willing to bet only a handful of restaurants in each city deliver a well balanced meal. In reality, much of what we consume is working against us not for us. We subject our bodies to daily abuse which over time leads to inflammation – now widely recognized as leading to illness. The one part we seem to have correct is the age old adage, “you are what you eat!”

Consumer driven health

At the forefront of the consumer driven health movement is San Francisco based startup, WellnessFX (featured last month in Reasons to be Cheerful). Led by former WebMD founder Jim Kean, his team is certainly no newbie to wellness with a number of its leadership having 2+ decades in the space. WellnessFX recognizes, “consumers and wellness practitioners are faced with a dizzying amount of health information as well as tens of thousands of diagnostic, nutritional and supplement product choices” and aims to provide tools to, “help people collect, organize, manage and interpret their data so that they can make decisions that drive actual results.”

Along with helping us make good result driven decisions in regard to our personal health, the downstream opportunity this new industry will drive is particularly exciting.

Think about it – as consumers it is our choice to eat what we eat. Armed with personalized nutritional plans we will be able to make better choices which help us to optimize our body. This consumer choice presents quite possibly the biggest opportunity for restaurateurs in our lifetime in terms of how we interact with restaurants.

Opportunity for restaurateurs

Restaurants have yet to scratch the surface when it comes to leveraging social media and mobile. Imagine how exciting it becomes when you add consumer driven health. This trifecta of social, mobile and consumer driven health has the potential to play a significant role in reshaping the traditional dining-out experience we know today.

Empowered with data to make smart decisions – consumers will make the choice. The choice to continue eating whatever is in-front of them or the choice to make decisions which support their path to wellness and good health. Just in the same way it is the consumers choice to decide on what they eat, it will also be the consumers choice to build an environment around them which supports their journey to wellness.

Information will drive change

The controversial Health Care Bill in the United States includes a requirement for restaurant chains to disclose nutritional information on menus, menu boards and in drive-throughs! Will you order a Venti Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks if you see its 560 calorie / 14 grams of fat label? Or the 1380 calorie / 104 grams of fat, 16g saturated fat Shrimp with Candied Walnuts from P.F. Changs? How about a more healthy option? A salad perhaps – but don’t forget to read the label – the P.F. Changs Thai Chicken Noodle salad weighs in at 870 calories with 37 grams of fat, 6g saturated fat and 1390mg of sodium? Eeek!

Just as the information about nutritional value will help consumers in their choice, the advances in consumer driven health will mean the consumer will have the right information. Information enabling them to make choices which are in their favor as opposed to flavor!

This is what presents an interesting opportunity for restaurants – quite possibly the biggest shake up the industry will see in our time.

Restaurant 2.0 – the restaurant of the future

What does a restaurant of the future look like? Below are three possible scenarios for Restaurant 2.0.

Scenario 1 – The Community Restaurant

By adopting a community model a restaurant will be able to provide significant support to its patrons with little additional cost. Other benefits include connecting with the local community and forming strong and lasting relationships. By offering a 30 day program a restaurant can guarantee repeat business in addition to social mentions – for example customers could sign up to eat a plant-based whole food diet for 30 days. Your name or photo could be added to a display covering an entire wall. The display is broken down into days – day 1 to day 30. Each day you check in via a phone app notifying the restaurant you are still on the diet allowing you to progress on the wall to the next day. For example, John is on day 2, Sally is on day 3.

Being part of the challenge you are encouraged to share a recipe with the restaurant. Chosen recipes are prepared by the restaurant chefs and stay on the menu for 1 week. Based on the percentage sales winning menu items live for another week – to be challenged by a new set of recipes. If a recipe maintains a 4 week winning streak it is moved onto the permanent menu for a given period. Each day you have access to the menu via your mobile device. The app. pushes out notifications of whats on the menu and any specials tonight at a time which suits you. On reaching the goal of 30 days you have the option to move across to the, “I did it” wall or carry on. If you carry on you join a leader board. At various stages you win free meals and other recognition.

There are many benefits for customers and the restaurant. Think how great it would be to have your dish on the menu in a restaurant. Would you gather all your friends and family and take them there that week? Would you share this news on Twitter, Facebook and other social channels such as Yelp!

The support, the camaraderie, the community is something you might never experience in a restaurant.

Scenario 2 – The Nutritionist (in place of the sommelier)

What if a restaurant was to be actively involved in nutrition – with either a qualified nutritionist onsite who is able to help each customer with their selection (the same way a sommelier would help select a bottle of wine) or training for staff to help with nutritional questions. As a customer you could ask to see the nutritionist, explain you are concerned about your blood pressure and be advised on the best options available to you.

Scenario 3 – Curated menus tailored to your wellness plan

Armed with your personal plan to Wellness from WellnessFX you are able to decide on which restaurants in your local vicinity are able to offer you meals which meet your goals. Restaurants with this capability could also work to cut through the complexity and offer menus which categorize common needs such as reduce inflammation, reduce blood pressure, protein boost for muscle recovery, lower cholesterol etc. Menus curated around wellness.


It’s impossible to tell at this stage what will happen however its exciting to think through the downstream effect of consumer driven wellness. Restauranteurs have a tremendous opportunity ahead of them to reinvent the dining out experience. By leveraging the growing research around overeating, social media, mobile and consumer driven wellness a restauranteur has a wealth of new options available to them. Options which can drive loyalty, brand and revenues.

As James Allen Dator, Professor and Director of the Hawaii Research Center for Future Studies states, “the future cannot be predicted, but alternative futures can and should be forecasted.”