Silver Diner, Cited in a National Study for its Healthy Kids Menu, Challenges Restaurants to Evaluate and Retool Menus for Kids

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A national study by Tufts University Friedman School and ChildObesity 180 was featured this week in Health Affairs Journal.  The study, was also featured in The Journal of Obesity in May. The study highlights new findings following up on the first-of-its-kind research looking at restaurant ordering patterns after a healthier children’s menu was introduced. Silver Diner is the national model used as a case study.

The study is based on changes implemented by Silver Diner in April, 2012 after removing French fries, home fries and soda from its kids menu and after automatically including a fruit or vegetable and milk or juice with every kid’s entree. When Silver Diner realized that many kids were ordering strawberries and other healthy sides, as opposed to fries, the restaurant removed them from the menu. The result was that sales increased and even exceeded the average revenue growth in leading family dining chains.  The implementation of complete healthy meals, that included fruit or vegetables has been a big hit with kids, and parents.

“We’re proud to have the healthiest kids menu in the country,” stated Ype Von Hengst, Silver Diner’s executive chef and co-founder. Von Hengst has won multiple awards for his healthy children’s menu. He has also added more healthy items to the adult menu and has introduced vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. “As Tufts University and others have discovered, we’ve been able to influence kids eating choices. It is my hope that other restaurants around the country will evaluate and retool their children’s menus with healthier options. The Silver Diner case study demonstrates that children want more than just chicken fingers and fries.”PWL  Von Hengst is a great example of change in lifestyle and eating. He turned his life around a few years back and began eating healthy and working out. He lost a lot of weight and even ran a marathon at age 59.  Now, he spends much of his time educating parents on the benefits of healthier nutrition.

In addition to spending a lot of time with customers and getting feedback on the menu, Von Hengst also spends time listening to his smallest customers. The restaurant has held special Kid’s Tastings where kids provide valuable feedback. They often astound their parents when the parents insist that their child won’t eat Brussel sprouts or salmon or other items, only to find out that not only will their kids eat them, they love them!

The restaurant instituted a loyalty dining program that gives back to schools.  Eat Well, Do Well has provided more than $500,000 in cash awards to area schools to fund health and nutrition programs.

A release on the recent journal article quotes David Krol, M.D. and senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which provided funding for the study, as saying, “If businesses help make the healthy choice easier for families and children, they will make it, which is good news.”  He continued, “The fact that the chain has seen its revenue grow also shows that there is a solid business case for making the shift to healthier options.”

“I challenge all restaurants to step up to the plate,” stated Von Hengst. “If a diner chain can get children to eat healthier, others should be able to do the same.”

In the study, aggregate data from 335,209 children’s meal orders were analyzed one year (Sept. 2013 to March 2014) and then two years (Sept. 2014 to March 2015) after the initial evaluation.

No financial support for the study was received from Silver Diner.



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