Special diets and their impact on the hospitality industry

Do menus become more varied to reflect the growing diversity of clientele? We describe some typical special diets and explain how restaurateurs can best serve them up with their flavours.

Special diets – where is this trend going? Who eats what and how do our eating habits influence the hospitality industry?

Tastes vary – some people love Brussels sprouts while others would never order a dish containing the little green balls. Aside from personal taste, aspects like animal welfare, climate change, cultural or family backgrounds and ethical considerations influence eating habits. Various special diets arise from these preferences, and certain products are avoided or even rejected entirely. As well as taste, healthy eating is important to the majority of Germans (89%). This is shown by the numbers in the “BMEL Nutrition Report 2022”, for which opinion research institute forsa surveyed 1,000 German citizens over the age of 14 on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).

Effects of special diets on the hospitality industry

Changes in eating behaviour have far-reaching consequences for the hospitality industry. Let’s suppose a group of colleagues have lunch together. One colleague is lactose-intolerant while another is vegan. The others have no special dietary preferences or intolerances but one colleague fancies fish. Which restaurant will the group choose? Probably one with a menu that takes into account different special diets and intolerances. Meat-free food in particular is increasingly popular. The trend towards vegetarian diets continues, especially among the under-30s. This is also reflected in the choices offered by dining halls. Berlin’s first purely vegan dining hall “Veggie 2.0” opened in 2019 and enjoys great popularity – not only among vegans. However, Germans are not only more frequently consciously foregoing certain products. According to the “BMEL Nutrition Report 2022”, they also place increasing value on high quality. Animal welfare labels (61%) and seals for sustainable fishing (55%) are important to people who eat meat and fish.

“Omnivores” with increasing quality demands   

“Omnivores” with increasing quality demands

According to a survey of around 6,000 consumers carried out online by Statista in 2022, more than half of Germans (51%) are mixed eaters who don’t adhere to a special diet. At first glance, mixed eaters are the least complicated guests a restaurateur could hope for. They eat both animal products and plant products. Affectionately known as “omnivores”, they will enjoy a colourful and richly varied menu. Flexitarians, too, seem very flexible about diet, at least if the name is anything to go by. But bear in mind that they are also known as part-time vegetarians. This flexible diet is based on consciously reduced consumption of meat and fish. What’s more, this group prefers fruit, vegetables, nuts and pulses. Depending on their mood on the day, they might choose a dish without animal products. So it’s worth gearing the menu towards this because flexitarians are on the increase (18%) and represent a real growth market. And because they are so flexible, they’re also happy to try meat substitute products.

Meat-free and fish-free diets

Meat-free and fish-free diets

Vegetarians avoid eating animals, and this includes fish and all processed items that contain fatty acids, gelatine, beef or chicken stock or animal rennet. Six percent of those surveyed by Statista choose this type of diet. Therefore, the preparation of vegetarian dishes requires careful checking of the ingredients used in the cooking process.

Vegans (3%) also avoid steak and the like but, in contrast to vegetarians, also abstain from all other animal products. This includes all chickens’ and birds’ eggs as well as other animal products like honey. For a vegan selection on the menu, restaurateurs can look to alternative proteins or plant-based adaptations of familiar meat dishes. A restaurateur who can come up trumps with a plant-based Bolognese will score highly with this group of guests.

Fish, but no meat

Fish  but no meat

Pescatarians love fish and seafood but are otherwise quite similar to vegetarians. This is because the 3% who, according to Statista, eat a pescatarian diet do not eat meat but usually eat other animal products such as milk, eggs and honey. For some pescatarians, it’s about animal welfare, which they don’t see in mass livestock farming. Others want to take advantage of the nutritional benefits provided by the Omega 3 fatty acids in fish consumption. Restaurateurs who want to offer guests with a penchant for seafood transparency about the origins of fish, oysters and so on will find numerous products at METRO that are traceable all the way to their source using the Pro Trace app.

Personalised diets are on the up

There are no limits to special diets. Besides the most common, other examples include clean eating and raw food. Also, many people have intolerances to ingredients such as lactose (10%) or gluten (7%) and design their diets accordingly. In any case, the individual diet is no longer a niche trend but offers restaurateurs potential for growth. A hospitality concept with a USP and a carefully considered menu can certainly bring success – as the 2022 winner of the METRO Award for Sustainable Hospitality knows. Jonas Mog from place to V says that being something special and running his own hospitality project with passion and authenticity are important to him.

A focus on different special diets: METRO magazine MPULSE examines how our eating habits affect the hospitality industry.

Pro Trace App

Where does the fish come from? How and when was it caught? The Pro Trace app shows the name of the ship, the port and the date of manufacture. This is how METRO ensures more transparency in the supply chains for its products, including fish and meat. Read about the importance METRO places on sustainable fish retailing in the Corporate Responsibility Report.

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