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Last week, I had the pleasure of being the main speaker and coordinator of two and a half hours of topics around a number of the current Healthy Trends facing our industry at the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show in Orlando, Fla. Interestingly enough after a solid year of speaking about Menu Labeling, Gluten Free and Food Allergen management the topics are still a standing room only event. Let me take you through the sessions and share some highlights of current and future trends for the food service industry.

Catering to the allergic diner with Disney's experience

This session was all about how not to send your diners to the ER for Dessert. I have done a lot of writing and speaking on this topic so I made the clear decision to get an expert to share stories, ideas and his best practices. When in Orlando and you want an expert of best practices where would you go? I went to Disney and grabbed Chef Gary!

Gary had the audience members on the edges of their seats talking about serving kids with food allergies in what I would describe as a top-shelf way. His role at Disney is to handle, manage and come up with how Disney will serve such a large and growing population. It is widely known that if you have a child with a food allergy Disney is THE place to vacation due to how they manage this life-threatening issue.

The entire session was a great mix of education from the CDC, FAAN, and numerous other sources, and the real practical experience of a 25 year+ Disney veteran.

Creating nutritious kids meals

Thanks to our First Lady and her Let's Move campaign, the outrageous increase in the rise of obesity in our children, and the greatly changing needs of our kids this session was an overwhelming hit.

Chef Gary taught this crowd some of the things he has implemented at Disney, which has more than 600 Food & Beverage locations in the U.S. Last decade, Walt Disney World established Healthy Guidelines for kids' meals.

Watching Chef Gary interact with chefs, owners, and students at this session made the entire event worth any and all the effort and there was still so much more to come. Finally, just a little food for thought when someone enters your restaurant and asks for a special 2010 Disney received more than 400,000 requests.

Government money available

Christie, a local Registered Dietician in Florida, did an amazing job presenting what resources are available in that state to restaurants to help make healthy options stand out on menus. For the last eight years there have been programs in the state of Florida to promote healthy eating and support the fight on obesity.

Our amazing speaker took the time to learn all the different programs in the state and then presented them to the audience in a clear, concise manor. This is where your health department can be a super great ally.

A side note, my company is doing this today in Pima County Arizona. These programs do exist and are a great way to help you accomplish the task of creating a healthy meal and then promoting it. Jump on this band wagon if at all possible.

Menu labeling

No healthy trends workshop would be complete without a good, fact based, and exciting session on menu labeling. Since this is my daily bread and butter I was happy to share details of the path menu labeling has traveled and give a glimpse into. John Raulerson, director of technical services at Firehouse Subs also spoke.

He did a great job of taking what I shared about what needed to be done and explained how he implemented similar practices at Firehouse. He brought large displays showing how his menu looks with the calories posted on them. It was the perfect way to end a super informative afternoon.

Lots more went on for me at the Florida Show. I was one of four judges for the Gluten-Free pizza contest and had the honor of being on the panel for the FSCW (FoodService Council for Women).

More to come on my next blog about both of these events.

User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Robbie Vitrano
    Thank you Betsy for the update. As a brand (Naked Pizza) built around this premise and actively engaging, it's good to see things advancing. Fast/Casual plays an important role as part of a holistic solution that brings together science, policy, industry and private sector business. Our industry is arguably the most successful business infrastructure in the world in its established footprint as well as its pioneer status in developing nations. That cultural pervasiveness can and should be used to make things a better. With the social and economic tsunami upon us, we're past the point of talk.
    Also glad to see that you're in Pima. We've tracked closely on the impacts of dietary changes on native populations in that region. A well documented case study of the devastation wrought by the Standard American Diet.
    Realize this sounds too damn serious - we're more comfortable mixing in a little sarcasm. And fun. That's the beauty of using our industry for good. It's based on a simple, human interaction. A little reward or break. A few hellos and a smile or two.

    Good things ahead.

    Robbie Vitrano
    co-founder, Naked Pizza
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Menu Labeling, Food Allergies and Gluten Free

Latest posts by Betsy Craig
Betsy Craig
Betsy Craig brings 20 years of food service industry experience to MenuTrinfo, LLC a menu nutritional labeling Company. Her commitment to the betterment of the food industry and her desire to affect the dining public are the driving forces behind her new company Kitchens with Confidence, LLC.
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