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Food is so much more than nourishment; it’s an experience, a story, and a lifestyle. Diners come to the table with high hopes and hotels can deliver with food that is organic, natural and minimally processed, as well as with ingredients that are sustainable, locally produced and environmentally friendly.

The first makes diners feel good physically; the second packs an emotional punch.

Research has proven that diners want to eat healthier. Market research company Mintel reported that diners specifically want less salt and sugar, and zero trans fats or preservatives. Similarly, researchers at Nielsen found that 43% of people choose food without genetically modified ingredients.

Diners constantly look for food that makes them feel better too, and one third of diners prefer food that is high in fibre and protein or that is fortified with minerals, vitamins and calcium.

That’s just the science—but life is more than vitamins and fibre. Every dish tells a tale and people want to hear its story; to reassure them that the food doesn’t just taste good, it’s good for them as well.

If they can find alternatives that are made with ‘better’ ingredients, then that’s what they will choose.

For instance, diners prefer locally sourced food that has travelled less than the industry average of 1,000 miles from farm to plate. It is important to note that this is not just a ‘nice to have’, but will become something diners expect.

Backing this up, the US National Restaurant Association found that over 80% of chefs saw locally sourced meat and seafood as a hot trend. These expensive local ingredients can be supplemented by products that simplify catering and come with high levels of food safety and integrity.

Hotels are taking note of these insights; Marriott International and Starwood Hotels, among others, have removed trans fats from their kitchens, while Royal Sonesta Hotel in Boston and the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas both offer gluten-free dishes. These are not just for people with gluten intolerance; many consumers ask for gluten- and dairy-free products because they think they are better for them.

This move towards healthier eating is most noticeable among people in the Asia Pacific and the younger generation, which is proof that it’s not just a passing fad. The same is true for illness-preventing superfoods such as kale and berries, as well as sustainable food; the younger the customer, the more likely they are to support it.

Good food doesn’t just need to be salad and steamed vegetables, though. Changing up your favourite recipes by using organic, low-salt, low-fat ingredients, for example, means that diners can eat the food they want while still feeling good. They will continue looking for exciting, tasty foods that are full of flavour, but if they can find alternatives that are made with ‘better’ ingredients, then that’s what they will choose.

This enthusiasm for feel-good food also doesn’t mean that diners don’t allow themselves the occasional treat, however. Even though sales of healthy foods like dairy-based shakes and vegetables outpaced sales of indulgences like chocolate and cookies, sales of both kinds of food grew overall, reported Nielsen.

Diners also want transparency, so they know what they are eating. Food Technology magazine reports that many professional kitchens have made their menus healthier by banning artificial ingredients and additives.

Perhaps most reassuringly, the Nielsen survey found that 93% of diners in the Asia Pacific are prepared to pay a premium for food that they know is the healthier option.
    
When there is such a clear message from diners, hotels can make it a point to tell the story of their food and its health benefits, so it becomes something they can be proud of.

Every dish on every table tells a story; to reassure them that the food doesn’t just taste good, it’s good for them as well.