Restaurants target New Year's resolutions


By the second week of January, many Americans already have wavered in their New Year’s resolutions, but restaurants are still reaping marketing rewards by catering to consumers looking to eat better in 2012.

Chains like Applebee’s and Denny’s are using resolution season as a time to bolster their low-calorie menu sections.

In addition, The Cheesecake Factory, Freebirds World Burrito and Fazoli’s are marketing their lower-calorie menu offerings, but with different approaches to new promotions.

Kansas City, Mo.-based Applebee’s figured from past experience that January and February would be a prime time to push its Under 550 Calories menu, as its top-selling entrée for the first two months of 2011 was that menu’s Signature Sirloin with Garlic Herb Shrimp. The 2,000-unit casual-dining chain has extended the line with three new under-550-calorie dishes: Roasted Garlic Sirloin, Sizzling Chili Lime Chicken, and Sizzling Asian Shrimp & Broccoli.

The brand also cited consumer research it conducted with Harris Interactive in late December that found 90 percent of respondents who have made food-related New Year’s resolutions have broken them, citing onerous restrictions and lack of flavor most often. The study also found that 81 percent of respondents who planned to make a food-related resolution in 2012 said having low-calorie options when dining out would make it easier for them to stick to their plans to eat more healthfully.

Watch a commercial for Applebee’s Roasted Garlic Sirloin; story continues below

Marketing executives at Spartanburg, S.C.-based Denny’s said the 1,670-unit family-dining chain would add several options to its Fit Fare menu this year. But another new addition to the Fit Fare mix is a nutritional calculator for Denny’s online and mobile websites that lets guests calculate the nutrition information of any chain meal, whether they order from the Fit Fare menu or opt for something more indulgent.