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American restaurants – from a healthy trend to a healthy lifestyle

  • Healthy menu options take the US restaurants by storm, striking healthy restaurants. While less than 1 percent of all US restaurants are classified as “healthy restaurants”, 29% currently offer healthy menu options
  • The state with the most restaurants offering healthy menu options is California (30,823/15%), while the state where it will be hardest to find healthy menu items is Vermont (361/0.2%)
  • Consumers can find vegetarian options in 12% of all restaurants in the US offer vegetarian options

Eating out at restaurants is one of the most loved activities worldwide – whether it’s on-the-go, simply avoiding cooking and casually eating out, or celebrating life events by pampering yourself with fine cuisine – restaurants are everywhere!

Putting that into numbers, as of January 2018 there are nearly 717,000 restaurants operating today in the US, half of them classified as Full-Service Restaurants (family style, casual dining, upscale dining and fine dining) and the other half, Limited-Service Restaurants (quick service, fast casual). 68% of US restaurants are independent owned, followed by major chains (23%), with over 500 units. The remaining locations are owned by smaller, regional chain operators.

Over the past few years, healthy dining has caught the attention of millions of consumers, changing menus across the nation and creating opportunities for new health-conscious operators. CHD Expert, a global leader in aggregating, analyzing, and managing foodservice data, evaluates healthy food operators and the healthy restaurants’ landscape of the United States to highlight how new consumer behaviors evolve and drive innovative industry trends.

The “healthy restaurant” as a concept is showing a sharp decrease. According to our database, in 2017, only 0.28% of US restaurants were classified as “health restaurants”, hitting the lowest point since its’ initial increase, which started in 2014. The shift in the health trend is shown during 2017 – with a dramatic drop in the number of health food restaurants and a reduction of 19% in the opening of new healthy restaurants. The change in trend can also be shown when analyzing the annual sales of healthy restaurants, standing on $1,200 million in 2017.

This data contradicts the fact that the American public continues to consume healthy food way from home. The answer can be found with the increase in American restaurants discovering the potential of healthy menu items, as a way to provide their customers with more varied options and gain customers’ loyalty – to be precise, 210,692 (29%) operators followed the trend. Most restaurants offering healthy menu items are major chains (61%, 129,456 op.), followed by independent owned (32%). If you want to learn more about the Independent Restaurants Landscape in the U.S. please click here.

The most common menu descriptor is vegetarian, offered in 12% of all US restaurants, followed by healthy options (7%), gluten-free (5%), vegan (4%) and organic (1%) options. This change in lifestyle is also shown in traditional fast food giants who are changing their menus to keep up with shifting consumer preferences.

It probably won’t surprise anyone that California comes in first when it comes to offering healthy menu items, with a total of 30,823 restaurants (15% op.). States following California are Texas (14,301/7% op.), Florida (13,180/6% op.), New-York (10,406/5% op.) and Illinois (9,308/4% op.).

As more American consumers demand that their fast food incorporates more low-calorie ingredients and fresh produce, a new crop of healthy food chains is popping up. These rising companies offer nutritious dishes that are just as affordable, convenient, and tasty as the food served at chains like McDonald’s and Taco Bell.

“We’re trying to take these price points and get them compatible with – or lower than – traditional drive-thru fast food, but make them organic, large portions, and accessible to everyone,” Roushan Christofellis, co-founder of a new chain called Salad and Go, told Business Insider. “Right now, organic food is very expensive and it’s only available to the few who can afford it.”


Now that we’ve covered all health dining, let’s have a look into the future! Here are 3 food trends you’ll see in 2018’ – Whether it’s different cultural foods, environmental awareness or unique recipe ingredients, restaurants and global companies alike are constantly evolving to provide more of what we as consumers look for in our food. Here are the top food trends you’ll see in the coming year.

Food bowls

Aesthetically pleasing and Instagram-worthy, food bowls are nutritious meals with endless customization. Whether it’s the brightly colorful fruit-stacked acai bowl, a Hawaii-inspired fish, vegetable, and rice poke bowl, or a hearty and nourishing grain-based bowl, expect to find more bowl-based recipes and meal options in the near future. I’m sure you heard about the Poke phenomenon, this new Hawaiian dish growing up in the fast-casual segment as Aloha Poké Co. or Poké Bar … Keep an eye on this trend!

Middle Eastern spices

Herbs and spices make for a memorable Middle Eastern meal. Adding bold flavor and color to any dish, expect to see more exotic blends like Za’atar, Ras el Hanout, Sumac, and Baharat, along with caraway seeds, cardamom, aniseed and turmeric in recipes from professional chefs, bloggers, and cookbooks.

Fermented foods

When a yeast or bacteria converts sugar into acid, gas or alcohol, fermentation occurs. Wine and beer demonstrate the microbiology of food at its finest but fermented foods have taken over the food industry. For the proclaimed health enthusiast, products like kombucha that you can savor at the first kombucha room in Chicago, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and cider, are creating a lot of buzz due to their many digestive health benefits.

To obtain detailed information on the foodservice industry landscape anywhere in the United States, or foodservice data in general, please contact [email protected].


About CHD North America

Data Ingredients. Growth Served. For over 20 years, CHD Expert has collected, analyzed, and managed foodservice and hospitality data to help businesses win in this fragmented and fast-moving industry. Our comprehensive and segmented data allows us to adapt our local and global insights to our clients’ objectives. From ideas to execution, we deliver actionable solutions that drive business growth.