Restaurants Just Saying No to Trans Fats

Discussion
Apr 13, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The co-founder of Jason’s Deli, Rusty Coco, said, “Your body can’t metabolize this stuff. So why should I serve it to my customers?”

Ruby Tuesday’s senior vice president, Rick Johnson, said, “We didn’t do it to drive business. We did it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Mr. Coco and Johnson are in agreement. They don’t want trans fats in the food they serve customers. That’s why they’ve removed it from every item
they sell.

According to a report by USA Today, Jason’s and Ruby Tuesday’s are two of the restaurant chains, along with Quiznos, Au Bon Pain, Legal Sea
Foods and Fazoli’s, that have either completely or partially eliminated trans fats from their menus.

Food manufacturers will be required to list products that contain trans fats on their labels in nine months.

Nutritionist and author Cynthia Lair welcomes the moves by restaurants to get out front on the issue, “It’s certainly in the top five things restaurants
can do to improve their food,” she said.

Ms. Lair said a restaurant or manufacturer marketing it has eliminated trans fats from its foods can gain an edge in the competition for consumers’
dollars.

Moderator’s Comment: What would you say has been the progress made by food manufacturers in eliminating trans fats from their products? Are companies
out front in eliminating trans fats gaining a competitive advantage over those who have not?

George Anderson – Moderator

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9 Comments on "Restaurants Just Saying No to Trans Fats"


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Paul Vogelzang
Guest
Paul Vogelzang
15 years 10 months ago

Just as the movie, “Super Size Me,” represents an extreme, the notion that the restaurant going public is not interested in health food, is just as extreme. What Americans need is balance: Sensible eating plus exercise. Eating right and staying fit are a matter of personal choice and responsibility — which are, with respect to eating, is made all the easier when restaurants pay attention to subjects like Trans Fats, etc. I say we patronize these places so as not to have the choices taken away from us.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
15 years 10 months ago

I’ve found it difficult to find trans fat free products that I know are out there — I’ve found that they haven’t quite made it to my grocer’s shelf yet. I wonder if product proliferation is making it difficult to get re-formulations to the shelf.

And, I’d like to know, when is high fructose corn syrup next on the target list? While not as bad as trans fats, it’s not that good for you either — and try finding products without that!

James Tenser
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

The “No Trans Fat” label is appearing on more supermarket products these days too – especially bread and other baked goods. I know people who will only buy products so designated. But at least in the store, the consumer has the opportunity to read an ingredients list before buying.

In restaurants, until quite recently, there has been a defacto “don’t ask” policy. Ruby Tuesday made a fairly bold statement when it announced its menu revision in the Fall of 2003 – it even backed up its move with a coordinated employee wellness program and a menu supplement with detailed descriptive information for diners who want it. It was a risk, since it raised ingredient costs with resultant impact on margins.

When we did our 2004 survey of exemplary customer service practices at the University of Arizona, we thought so much of Ruby Tuesday’s program that we included it in the published study. I’m pleased to see it has apparently ignited a trend in the quick serve and table restaurant business.

Kelly Ruschman
Guest
Kelly Ruschman
15 years 10 months ago

On the foodservice side, manufacturers are making good progress to reformulate products to remove trans fats. Some are ahead of others, but most should have the process completed by early next year. As we have seen with the chains demanding manufacturers to remove trans fats, this is really a necessity, and not something that is going to provide any sustainable marketing advantage. Basically, by the time the new labeling laws kick in, no one is going to want to have any trans fats listed on their ingredient decks.

Brian Numainville
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

I have noticed an increasing trend in the number of CPG products that have gone to trans fat free products. However, many restaurants still remain “vague” in their menus about whether or not their foods have trans fats. Others do a good job — LeAnne Chin, for example, has an educational piece on their “tray mat” that promotes the fact they are trans fat free and always have been. I think this does provide a marketing advantage if done in an appropriate manner, at least in the short term. I know that it has helped shape where I go out to eat!

Ian Percy
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

I say God bless ’em. The idea that at least some of these restaurants will remove a customer-wounding element from their product because “it’s the right thing to do” warms my heart. And you know what? When they say that, I’m going to believe them.

My advice, however, is that they not flaunt in in their promotions and turn it into some kind of marketing gimmick. The news will get out just fine. If they flaunt it the consumer’s gut reaction will be to wonder why they were deliberately trying to hurt people in the first place. After all we’ve known about the dangers of trans fat for a long time now.

I feel the same way about restaurants that still allow smoking – as so many do here in Arizona. (It’s a cowboy thing.) Their actions say “We know it hurts our customers but we don’t care.” What a way to run a business! But then, what’s a little damage to your body when you can get a $5 off coupon!

Tom Zatina
Guest
Tom Zatina
15 years 10 months ago

The central message I hear is that awareness of this nutritional issue has been successfully raised and companies are getting the point. For some, this will certainly mean a marketing advantage, at least for a short while.

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 10 months ago

There is no reason that anyone should be eating trans fats any more – except that there is not yet an adequate supply of alternative oils for everyone to make the switch. The competitive advantage will remain, for a time, with those companies and chains large enough to demand the lion’s share of alternative oils. As more product becomes available, smaller companies will be able to jump on the bandwagon – except for those very innovative companies who saw this coming and had already made the switch. But, yes, the advantage rides strongly with those who can promise no trans fats. And by the way, Whole Foods doesn’t sell any product with trans fats either.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 10 months ago

Good on them for doing it and good on them for telling customers that they’ve done it. Pretty soon silence will imply that trans fats haven’t been removed. Until virtually everyone eliminates them from food, at which time the signs will become redundant, it is both helpful and responsible to wear their declarations on whatever substitutes for a sleeve.

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