Social Question

gorillapaws's avatar

Why isn't there a Fast-Food franchise that sells exclusively healthy meals?

Asked by gorillapaws (27035points) April 27th, 2010

Healthy choices have started to become available at many fast-food and franchise restaurants, but I’m surprised that no one has come up with one that specializes in only healthy stuff that tastes good and is fast.

I could imagine combo meals that advertise how many points they’re worth on the various diets out there. The food would probably be a bit more expensive than the cheapest places out there, but I’d bet it could be made for reasonably cheap prices. I’m envisioning a restaurant where if someone did the Supersize Me experiment, they’d actually loose weight and come out healthier.

Would this work? or are Americans too addicted to unhealthy portion sizes and fat? Would you eat at a place like this regularly? Why/why not?

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58 Answers

erichw1504's avatar

Good question, but I don’t think it would be able to make it as a franchise. It probably wouldn’t get a lot of business since Americans are too addicted to comfort foods.

prolificus's avatar

Nearby my workplace in a major city, there was a fast food place that was part of a chain which sold healthy food only – nothing was fried, everything was fresh. It was like an Arby’s / deli / grill restaurant. It was great to get mashed sweet potatoes as a side, or baked french fries! The prices were reasonable. The place was always packed. However, it lasted for less than a year – I have no idea why it didn’t last. Some other deli / grill place moved in, and it lasted less than six months. Must be the location, which is odd, because the spot receives a lot of foot traffic.

Taciturnu's avatar

You can make good choices at Panera. (I think it’s a franchise.) Subway, too- Look at Jared! :)

If I found a local vegan spot, I would eat there with some regularity. (Nothing like a home-cooked meal, though!) And yes, I do think Americans are too attached to fatty foods as well as large portions.

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

I dunno, if there ever was a time to start a chain like this, now is definitely the time to do it. With Biggest Loser, Jamie Olivers Food Revolution, Eat This Not That, Supersize me, Food Inc. it sounds like people really do want a change in how America eats. I don’t go out to eat that much, but when ever I am on the road, it is impossible to find a place to eat & know that I’m making a somewhat healthy choice. It would be nice to have a healthy fast food. I would choose that over anything else that is out there.

shilolo's avatar

Fast (street) food tends to be stuff that can be easily prepared (read, fried) and occurs the world over. Hamburgers, hotdogs, gyros, falafel, tortas, etc. I think it would be great, but can you envision trying to supplant the marketing/buying power of McDonald’s and others?

gorillapaws's avatar

@Taciturnu the thing with Subway is that you have to order the sub “stripped down” from how it normally comes. I’m talking about a place where every menu item comes standard with the healthy options by default.

@shilolo McDonalds could certainly start something like this under a separate brand if they wanted, the fact that they haven’t may indicate that it’s been considered and rejected.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Here is one: Cafe Yumm

But I would LOVE to see more. I’d like to see one with really great salads.

philosopher's avatar

I don’t remember the name but I saw a Chef on Opera who was making healthy males fast
It sounded really good.
Panera is good. They have minimally processed chicken.

Taciturnu's avatar

@gorillapaws For me, that’s easy- I don’t eat meat or dairy or eggs anyway. :)

I’ve not seen franchises where everything offered is healthy, but I have seen little shops even locally. I did see a show I think on Travel Channel about healthy fast food restaurants. I’ll have to see if I can find anything about it again…

Berserker's avatar

Subway? It’s as close as it’s gonna get anyways.

lilikoi's avatar


(1) Fast food is expected to be cheap. Healthy food costs more.

(2) Fresh can only truly be accomplished on a local scale and fast food chains operate on the multi-national level where everything is sourced from major industrial producers. It is currently impossible to produce the huge quantities of food that fast food scale enterprise demands without sacrificing quality.

(3) Grease and sugar HFCS are cheap and taste good (to most people). They are also a major reason why fast food is so unhealthy. If you cut back on these, you’ll have to incorporate real flavors, which are more expensive.

Sorry but fast food and healthy are oxymorons. Eating healthy is basically the opposite of everything fast food is by definition.

Subway ain’t that fresh. Their veggies are dull and tasteless. Their meats are highly preserved.

And you know, I don’t think cramming a meal down your throat on the road in 15 minutes while you sit in rush hour traffic is a healthy lifestyle. It’s one of the many reasons why I quit my job. Taking a reasonable amount of time to have and enjoy a healthy meal should be something you are entitled to, not a luxury.

I couldn’t afford USDA certified organic or many local produce/products when I was a student in college, but I think I still managed to eat healthier than when I was a well-paid working professional. I had time to prepare my own meals and didn’t eat out much; I ate a bowl of oatmeal with a papaya every morning for breakfast. As a working professional, I ate at least one, and usually all, meals a day out, and never had time for breakfast or exercise. I’d rather be poor than sacrifice my health for a job.

MagicalMystery's avatar

i would be happy with a fast food place that served healthy meals and had a drive through.

Exhausted's avatar

I ask a restaurant manager this same question. He said the healthier choices are not cost effective because the raw materials do not have enough ro for a profitable markup. He said they end up losing money on waste because heathier choices are typically perishables without preservatives. He said if he charged a desirable markup, people would choose the less expensive choices. Surely someone could find a way to make money and the items still be competitive prices.

lilikoi's avatar

@Exhausted Fast food is highly subsidized. There are many costs not accounted for in the price you are quoted at the cash register. If all of these expenses were included in the price the consumer saw, eating healthy would be a cost competitive alternative. It is possible to do healthy food and be profitable, but our industrialized agriculture system will have to be completely overhauled.

mollypop51797's avatar

Because most good quality healthy stuff needs to be fresh. Preservatives and artificial flavoring take away the good quality/healthy factor.

philosopher's avatar

Subways cold cuts contain antibiotics and hormones. I only eat Organic cold cuts.

gorillapaws's avatar

@lilikoi you make some very interesting points. Do you think it would be economically viable for the chains to have a localized menu where they deal directly with local farmers to get fresh ingredients for good prices?

RedPowerLady's avatar

@gorillapaws I was coming on here to say that exactly.

PupnTaco's avatar


lilikoi's avatar

@gorillapaws I don’t. Fresh produce is seasonal, and climates vary by region. What you can get where I live will not be the same as what you get where you live, and things can taste different. They would have to deal with this variability somehow, and it would probably result in a multitude of different menus and entities involved – sounds like an accounting nightmare not too mention a lack of consistency, which is what chain eateries are all about (e.g. recall how uniform McD french fries are). Fast food chains are profitable perhaps for many reasons, one being that everything is bought in massive bulk from a few sources. Then there is the fact that local produce can be more expensive. I pay twice as much for local onions than I do for supermarket alternatives, for example, and this is true for most other things here. And there is the question of whether or not farming is even done locally in the first place. As land values continue to rise here, more and more agricultural land is built out. We are squeezing out farming in my state because people can make more money growing hotels. If we keep going down this path, we’ll end up like Bermuda, shipping in all of our food because there is little land left to produce our own. And I’m sure in some climates you’re very limited to what you can grow, and when.

laureth's avatar

@lilikoi is right all the way.

This being a hippie college town, a couple “healthy” “fast” food places have tried to do business here. People didn’t really patronize them, even though lots of people here shop at the farmer’s market, food co-op, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Why? I guess people prefer greasy salty crap food for their fast food fix. Taste trumps nutrition.

There’s a reason it’s called slow food.

lilikoi's avatar

I should add, though, that there are different “levels” of healthy. Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma illustrated what I mean well. The whole book was about different meals he ate – the McD fast food meal, the meal he cooked with industrial organic, the meal he cooked growing or foraging everything for himself.

I tend towards being an idealist and my brain immediately went to comparing the two extremes, but I think a middle ground compromise would be a small step in the right direction. What do I mean…

In my working years of eating out, there was a real dearth of non-greasy, non-preserved, non-highly sweetened, non-pesticide loaded fruits and veggies around. I got to the point where all food started tasting the same, and made me want to puke. I started just buying bananas and individual serving yogurt from a grocery store because I couldn’t handle it anymore. Someone could provide these economically. I wouldn’t expect it to be cost effective to do it fresh or local, but it would still be healthier than a Happy Meal. When I was in London, I noticed a big difference in fast food. There was a chain called Pret a Manger that filled this middle ground compromise niche. And they seemed to be doing quite well. I don’t know if American culture would embrace something like this, but it sure was a welcome sight for me.

njnyjobs's avatar

There is Salad Works. . . . and they franchise.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

I think this chart explains why there aren’t very many health food chains out there.

That being said, I would totally eat at a place like that if there was one in my area.

ConfusedKid's avatar

Burger and fries w/ coke or a salad with water? There’s your answer

bea2345's avatar

I am afraid that @Exhausted is right. The only way healthy foods can be as economic as fast foods, under present conditions, is if you buy the ingredients and prepare them yourself. The catch is, it takes skill and experience to produce to-go meals that are as good as what one could buy in a restaurant.

Jeruba's avatar

Both Fresh Choice and Sweet Tomatoes salad bars have been around our area of Northern California for a long time. They don’t sell exclusively “health” foods, but you can go there and get an entirely healthful meal.

I think a mixed menu is going to offer the most realistic commercial position for the restaurant. As long as they offer healthy choices (subsidized by the less healthy ones)—just as publishers who bring out a few “literary” books know they’ve got to sell popular titles to make up for the loss—doesn’t it make sense to patronize them?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@Jeruba I concur, we have them aroud here
I would never heat there though, give me Jack in anyday LOL LOL But for those who want it you can fnd healthy eating places they are just harder to see unless you dig.

YARNLADY's avatar

We can get food to go at Fresh Choice and that is as good as it gets.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

I think that’s a really good idea. We have nothing like that in our area. We have a Panera Bread but it only has healthy options. Not everything is healthy. I would absolutely go to a fast food healthy restaurant. Our country needs something like that!

chamelopotamus's avatar

I can’t believe @Dave is the only one who said Chipotle, I love Chipotle! And on another note, if I had it my way I’d like to go to some futuristic, experimental healthy fast food place that only sold wheatgrass, smoothies (Jamba Juice, I know), and algae jelly. Come to think of it, I really just want to try some kind of algae product, we can survive off of algae alone and be in perfect health (no other food or water needed). It’s said that Moses and his desert crew survived off of “Manna” which is an algae superfood, for 40 years. In the desert, mind you, where there’s not much water. Im intrigued :)

laureth's avatar

Chipotle may be a little green-friendlier than most, but I didn’t call them out as healthy because it ain’t necessarily so.

Edited to add: Figure out the nutritional content of your favorite Chipotle meal here.

lilikoi's avatar

@chamelopotamus Why don’t you just buy some nori and kobu and see how long you can last on that….Or move here. We have an invasive species problem with “alien” algae. You could hang out at Waikiki and just scoop it out of the water and eat it. Kill 2 birds with one stone.

lilikoi's avatar

We don’t have Chipotle or Fresh Choice here…first time I’ve heard of it

chamelopotamus's avatar

I’ve had Nori with sushi, I think, and I looked up Kobu but nothing came up, can you tell me what Kobu is made out of?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@lilikoi Oh great, just what the world needs, sea grown rabbit food LOL LOL

lilikoi's avatar

@chamelopotamus Kobu is seaweed, a particular type I think. Some people call it kombu. It looks like this. Commonly served in miso soup but also used in a lot of other Japanese dishes. I used to eat it straight out of the bag (too salty for most people) or just soaked in water for a couple of minutes. And I was serious about the alien algae. I think you can eat it, but it is used for fertilizer commercially. Other types of algae (limu in Hawaiian) are used commercially in Hawaiian dishes, particularly poke or just eaten raw. It is good for you, and good tasting but I wouldn’t want to live on it alone. It may be rabbit food, but I couldn’t live long without it. Oh! There is also wakame.

Jill_E's avatar Theres U Food Grill. I believe it started in Boston? And they opened one out west here in Roseville, CA. It is good food. I could see the trend of healthy fast food especially after Jamie Food Revolution.

Our kids love it, my friends and I love it when we have a chance to go there.

Cruiser's avatar

Just about any grocery store I shop at has a salad bar option and chock full of whole fresh foods. In and out in less than 3 minutes!

JeffVader's avatar

Such fast food places would exist if there was a market for them….. but look at the example of McDonalds, even when they introduced their salads etc, thanks to public demand, no-one bought them.

BoBo1946's avatar

@philosopher really…did not know that!

philosopher's avatar

I am hoping that by telling everyone they will be pressured into using organic cold cuts.
I see more minimally processed chicken in stores now. Bell and Evans is the best chicken sold in America. There products have no antibiotics or hormones and are grass feed.
I have a favorite little grocery that I buy from. Stop and shop also carries Bell and Evans.
Whole Foods has Organic Bell and Evans.
The grocer said, he is not hundred percent sure about Purdue or other companies; and he only sells Bell and Evans.
He also said, the USA is at least seven years behind Europe in removing antibiotics from our chicken and beef.
The antibiotics in our meat and chicken are causing bacteria to become antibiotic resistant.
Merissa and other bacterial illness are on the rise. Especially in hospitals. Since doctors also prescribing people with viral infections antibiotics; are antibiotics are less effective. Not all doctors do this.
These things are all related. Unfortunately someone will answer by telling me all they care about is taste.
Naturally made things taste better.
Antibiotics can not destroy Viruses or DNA. They kill Bactria or secondary infections; which set in when Viruses weaken the immune system.

laureth's avatar

Any meat (cold cuts, burgers, etc.) is pretty much going to be stuffed with hormones and antibiotics unless it says it’s not (i.e., organic). And while it’s possible to put pressure on places to carry organic foods, that pressure is usually going to be outweighed by people who want “every day low prices.” Organic is just more expensive. Organic agriculture is also not subsidized by the government, which is a big reason why. It also requires more labor, because you can’t just spray down a field with pesticide so much – it’s more hands-on.

It would be a wonderful thing, I think, if more fields and farms went organic. Not so much fertilizer runoff, not so much farmworker cancer, not so much poison in the groundwater, etc. And it’s even less erosion than conventional farming, if you do it right. However, “doing it right” would require, again, more human labor and less reliance on big farm machinery, chemicals, and economies of scale. It’s a whole hearted change in the methods and mindset of farming. And I don’t think it will happen so long as people are more fixated on the “extra value 99 cent meal menu” mentality than they are on the health of the body and of the ecosystem.

I’m not saying “stop trying.” Trying is worth it. Just don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work, and organics remain a niche market for as long as oil-based inputs are cheaper than labor.

philosopher's avatar

I am doing well. I buy only organic or minimally processed. The down side is some products have too much salt.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

@philosopher I’ve noticed that too, as I’ve been trying to eat better (both health and environmentally speaking). I’ve also read that having too much sodium in one’s diet is just as bad as having too much sugar or fat. Jeez, why is it so hard to have food that’s just plain good for you?

philosopher's avatar

You have to make it yourself. It takes time unfortunately.

YARNLADY's avatar

@philosopher Good News – Salt is taking a cut.

philosopher's avatar

A step in the right direction.

lilikoi's avatar

I’ve heard that Asian people are more resistant to the ill effects of high sodium diets. In my experience, this certainly seems reasonable. Everyone in my family loves salt. I love salt so much I sometimes eat it straight. My grandma is in her 90s and is quite healthy.

gorillapaws's avatar

@lilikoi based on your very intelligent answers earlier, I’m certain that you’re smart enough not to draw broad conclusions from a few anecdotal example cases.

lilikoi's avatar

I’m not drawing any conclusions, but I’m not cutting back on my salt intake either. I love it way too much. Some people have alcohol, others have cigarettes…I have salt.

gorillapaws's avatar

@lilikoi I’m just as guilty as you are. lol.

ItsAHabit's avatar

If there were a bigger market for healthful fast food, there would be health fast food restaurants. Restaurants serve what the public demands.

YARNLADY's avatar

In our area, we have Garden Fresh/Soupplantation restaurants, which are the next best thing. You do have to go inside and pack it to go yourself, but it is all just sitting there waiting for you, buffet style.

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