In an effort to attract new customers, Ruby Tuesday is focusing on its ‘Smart Eating’ programme and introducing nutritional facts onto its menu. Amid growing controversy over obesity and the ensuing health risks, the company should find that such healthy eating initiatives increase its appeal to dieters and non-dieters alike.

Leading the way in educating consumers about healthy eating, Ruby Tuesday will be the first sit-down restaurant chain to provide specific nutritional information on its menu. It plans to provide data on total calories, total grams of fat, net grams of carbohydrates and total grams of dietary fibre for all menu items. New menus will be available from April 2004 in all of its 700 US restaurants.

Publishing nutritional information is just one of the key steps the company is taking in its Smart Eating initiative. In November 2003, it switched to trans-fat-free canola oil for cooking, created more than 30 new menu items for carb-conscious diners, and placed greater emphasis on its signature salad bar. In addition to printing nutritional information on its menu, the company will also provide a Smart Eating Guide on every table, which features educational information about a balanced diet.

Over the past two years, the culpability for the obesity epidemic has shifted from individuals to governments and the food industry. During this period the foodservice industry has been under constant criticism for its lack of effort in promoting healthy eating. Alternative strategies such as reducing portion size have largely been ignored.

Slowly but surely, retailers and producers have begun to respond to the growing population of health-conscious consumers. Most notably, Applebee’s has entered into an alliance to offer menu items using Weight Watchers’ trademark point system. McDonald’s and Wendy’s now offer entree-sized salads, and Burger King recently introduced low-fat chicken sandwiches.

With obesity being the number two cause of death in the US, second only to smoking, the food industry remains under pressure. By making health its number one priority, Ruby Tuesday is raising the bar for its competitors. These timely changes could be the advantage the company needs to entice those patrons who share its healthy eating philosophy.

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