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'Snack' attacks are on the rise in restaurants

May 12, 2010 | 12:08 pm

To my mind, a 330-calorie dish that contains chicken, cheese, lettuce and tortilla is a lunch. Maybe a dinner. At McDonald’s, the Chipotle BBQ Snack Wrap is just a snack (the name says it all).

Wrap Same goes for a plate of Sweet Corn Tamale Ravioli at California Pizza Kitchen. Though the restaurant dubs it a “small craving,” it’s big enough to set you back 436 calories.

You may have noticed this too. No wonder: According to a report released Wednesday by Mintel Menu Insights, the number of menu items with some version of “snack” in the name has nearly tripled since 2007. And Mintel market researchers expect it to keep on growing.

In their survey, 64% of snackers craved beverages, 52% craved something “indulgent” and 50% craved salty foods. (I’m sure you can relate.) Only 32% ultimately selected healthy snacks.

Snack menus make sense for restaurants, since they help fill seats in the slow time between meals. They also make sense for diners, since snacks cost less than standard meals. The average snacker spends $3.79, according to Mintel.

— Karen Kaplan

Photo: This Honey Mustard Snack Wrap looks kind of like a meal. Credit: McDonald’s USA.

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