Restaurant chains embrace EatSmart campaign

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2007, 12:00am

Restaurant chains have welcomed a government campaign to encourage them to cook lighter, healthier meals, saying it helps customers, as well as their bottom line.

Representatives of 300 restaurants, some belonging to the same chain, yesterday shared their experiences implementing the pilot scheme '', launched by the Hospital Authority in late July. They had committed to producing at least five dishes abiding by the 'less oil', 'less sugar', 'less salt' and 'more fruits and vegetables' principles.

'We owe the authority respect,' said Alex Li, of the Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades. 'This campaign is not only good for our customers, it also helps our business.

'The prices of ingredients, especially meat, poultry and fish, have sky-rocketed,' he said. 'If not for the campaign, restaurants would be under more pressure to raise prices. The concepts of this campaign help us to cook better with less.'

Fifty of the pilot restaurants have provided about 685 EatSmart dishes for their patrons, according to an authority survey. Most had positive feedback and reported an increase in business.

Regina Ching Cheuk-tuen, assistant director of the Health Department, said the campaign was now being launched city-wide, with an invitation for all restaurants to participate. Participants will be granted the status of an 'EatSmart' restaurant.

Association of Restaurant Managers chairman Chung Wai-ping said it could be difficult changing the food culture in Hong Kong, but he was optimistic about the campaign.

'It takes time for our chefs to change their cooking habits and build up their confidence that the renewed recipes will taste better,' said Mr Chung, who is also chairman of Tao Heung Holdings Limited, which joined the pilot scheme.

'We also have to train our staff how to tactfully convince customers that the EatSmart dishes are worth the money, though there may be less rich or meaty ingredients.

'But we believe it is the trend to eat wise and healthy. The change will come with support from the business sector and public education.'