America’s statistic about overweight and obesity are alarming. American obesity and overweight levels remain at all-time highs: 68% of the U.S. adult population is categorized as overweight or obese – leading to a place in the Top 10 of Forbe’s ‘fattest countries worldwide’. But even people with normal weight are not necessarily healthy: about 30% of normal-weight US men and 21% of women show unhealthy levels of metabolic and cardiovascular disease risk factors.
The role restaurants play in American nutrition has increased dramatically and thus, restaurants carry a big and ever growing responsibility: The fraction of daily calories from food away from home increased from about a quarter in 1989-91 to more than a third in 2007-08. This is due to an increase in share of food away from home, which was not accompanied by a reduction in calories and fat restaurant meals offer (rule of thumb: one additional meal away from home each week translates to ~2 extra pounds each year). Thus, it is no surprise that restaurants are in the center of the discussion around healthy food and are finally starting to respond to this trend. From the Top 20 trends on the Restaurant Associations ‘What’s Hot 2012’-list, 7 can be categorized as health-related and 7 as sustainability-related.
But even with America’s health issues being well publicized and the fact that consumer awareness of issues such as obesity and diabetes has increased considerably in recent years, there still exists a dichotomy between wanting to eat healthfully and actually doing so. There are several reasons responsible for people not eating healthy:
- higher prices – restaurants offering ‘health-oriented’ food are more expensive than traditional restaurants, making it impossible for the majority of people to afford it on a daily basis
- peoples’ prejudices – a high number of Americans think that healthy food is less tasty than traditional food and they doubt that a “healthy” restaurant can offer a real “dinning experience”
- lack of offer: Health-oriented restaurants are still a only a minor fraction of the total restaurant market. Also, most offerings are concentrated in the fast food/fast casual and fine dining segment. The casual segment is still heavily underserved
We have created a casual restaurant concept, Balanced Kitchen, which will allow to overcome this contradiction by offering great-tasting, balanced food based on the most recent research on healthy nutrition at competitive prices in a modern atmosphere. Basis for our concept are the ‘Healthy Eating Plate,’ developed by the Harvard School of Public Health. This plate visualizes the portions of different food groups one should eat to be in line with a balanced diet. Technology will improve our restaurant operations and offer customers a new type of dining experience. Providing emenus on tablets instead of paper menus will offer a wide range of new services for the customers, such as food reviews and the possibility to individualize meals while at the same time lowering our operating costs and thus prices.
Our goal is to make a positive change in the lives of people by offering tasty, healthy, and affordable food options for lunch and dinner, and thus contribute to the reduction of obesity and metabolic/cardiovascular disease in the US.
Balanced’s management team:
- Valérie Scheer is a Harvard Business School student of the class of 2013. In the selection of her courses, workshops, and club memberships she focuses on building entrepreneurial skills and gaining experience in the restaurant industry. Before joining HBS, Valérie was a senior consultant at McKinsey & Company in Germany, where she has worked from 2008 to 2011. Valérie gained experience in restaurant operations while working as a waitress during college.
- Amalia Torres Carmona is an LL.M. graduate in European and International Business Law from the University of Vienna. She built her business law experience in international law Firms and gained entrepreneurial experience in starting her own NGO in Spain. Given her strong interest and knowledge in healthy dining options, Amalia is not only responsible for all legal questions that accompany every food place, but also the creation and communication of a compelling value proposition.
- Rebecca Cameron is a graduate chef and certified nutritionist. She holds a degree from the Culinary Institute of America and is the founder Haute Nutrition, a nutrition-culinary boutique agency that caters to the foodservice industry. Before founding her own agency, she worked as chef at Cameron Reed Concepts, a restaurant concept development company.