Lower-Calorie Foods:

Over the last several years, many restaurant chains have begun to offer more lower-calorie foods and beverages. This report is the first to provide a comprehensive analysis of the impact those changes are having on companies' business performance.

The report uses companies’ annual reports and data from market research firms to analyze the efforts of 21 major restaurant chains to grow their sales of lower-calorie items, and what impact those sales have had on companies’ sales, customer traffic, and total servings figures.

The authors found that chains that increased their servings of lower-calorie items saw positive returns, including:

  • a 5.5 percent increase in same-store sales, compared with a 5.5 percent decline among chains selling fewer lower-calorie servings;
  • a 10.9 percent growth in customer traffic, compared with a 14.7 percent decline; and
  • an 8.9 percent increase in total food and beverage servings, compared with a 16.3 percent decrease.

Lead author Hank Cardello says the findings show that restaurant chains now have incentive to lower their calorie footprints to enhance their performance and to help address the nation's obesity epidemic.