Recent data from the United States restaurant industry shows that Americans are eating out more than ever before. The USDA reports that food-away-from-home (restaurants, take-out outlets, and other eateries) accounted for 55% of total food expenditures in 2021 (“2021 U.S. Food-away-from-home spending,” 2022). The trend of eating out more is likely due to a combination of factors, including convenience, cost savings, and access to a wider variety of food options, especially with the rise of digital services such as delivery apps and mobile ordering systems. It is important to consider the implications of this shift in consumer behavior. The good news is that the higher demand for restaurant meals has resulted in more jobs as well as economic growth. Conversely, a critical disservice results: Americans are consuming fewer home-cooked meals, which can lead to elevated health risks that include, and are not limited to, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease due to a lack of nutritional balance and portion control.
There’s no denying that our industry has a hand in enabling the excesses that can lead to these serious health problems.
To be fair, many restaurants and dining establishments have begun to take action by offering healthier menu options, decreasing portion sizes, and including nutritional information. Despite these positive initiatives, our industry also pours billions of dollars into undermining the ability to resist temptation. We have all fallen prey to the unlimited buffet of tantalizing “food porn” served up to us on repeat through various media outlets. Good deeds are quickly undone as our willpower slides precipitously into free fall.
Being less in touch with the food experience has turned eating into an activity fulfilling often a psychological craving for comfort, entertainment, and mindless distraction, rather than the physiological need for sustenance. We have become increasingly detached from listening and responding to our brains and bodies.
As an industry, our greatest act may be how we engage with art and science to make strides toward combating this threat to our health and well-being. David Edwards, Ph.D., editor of this special edition of Boston Hospitality Review (BHR), entitled “Brain Food,” posits that the road to recovering our lost sense of direction and dialog within our own bodies may be, quite literally, just under our noses, and in the air we breathe.
We are honored to collaborate with David Edwards, scientist, author, and pioneering inventor, who brings together esteemed researchers and thought leaders from a variety of disciplines to present multifaceted perspectives on and paths to eating better and enjoying the food experience in more healthful ways.
This BHR edition on “Brain Food” challenges all of us to think differently and develop new rituals surrounding the pleasures of the food experience.
It’s not just a call to action but an open door to opportunities for the Hospitality Industry to create new and innovative experiences that both improve our well-being and ultimately, enhance our overall way of life.
Arun Upneja, Ph.D.
Dean of Boston University School of Hospitality Administration