By Rieva Lesonsky

As if restaurant owners didn’t have enough to worry about with rising food costs and increased competition, Americans’ frequent adoption of food fads can impact menu choices and ultimately customer loyalty.

We know the gluten-free craze has affected many restaurants and bakeries, which had to be inventive to come up with gluten-free versions of staples like pizza. And although they haven’t been in the news as much lately, low-carb diets, reports Iobotta, an online marketing company, are still popular and impacting restaurants across the country.

According to a report in Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN)) about 33 percent of consumers are on some type of diet (actually that sounds low to me), with 18 percent cutting carbs, 16 percent on high-protein regimens, 9 percent going gluten-free and 4 percent following the Paleo diet. All of those diets restrict carbs, which will likely influence what consumers order in your restaurant (or food truck, etc.).

NRN says about 20 percent of diners are cutting back on menu items, such as bread and pasta, and the magazine reports that’s affected sales at Italian restaurants and places where noodles are served. In contrast, NRN reports the steak chains seem to “be performing remarkably well.”

If the low carb trend continues (and it likely will), you need to make sure your menus reflect what diners want: more protein choices and dessert options. Be flexible when customers ask for substitutions on their side orders. Offer burgers wrapped in lettuce instead of on a bun.

And if you see that many of your diners are cutting back on carbs, perhaps you can save money and “help” them diet by asking if they want the bread basket before you put it on table and let it go waste.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+   and