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Under the microscope: Full-service restaurants.

This month: Full-service restaurants.

What’s a full-service restaurant?

It’s basically any establishment with a relatively broad menu that has table or counter service and waiting staff.

Sounds like the type of thing that food industry magazines should be discussing…

Well, yes, usually. But it’s relevant to these pages due to some new research that has been published in BMJ Open.

OK, tell me more.

A University of Liverpool study reported that the calorie content of popular starters, sides and desserts served in UK restaurant chains is too high and only a minority meet public health recommendations.

Do they name names?

No, details of the restaurants are not included, but they reveal that they analysed the calories in 1009 dishes, 212 starters, 318 sides and 479 desserts, from
27 large UK restaurant chains (21 full-service, six fast-food).

What did they find?

An average of 488 kcal for starters, 397.5 kcal for sides and 430.6 for desserts. The percentage of dishes exceeding the recommended number of calories in a full meal (600 kcal) was 26.4% for starters, 21.7% for sides and 20.5% for desserts. So, in essence, one in four starters and one in five sides and desserts in UK chain restaurants exceed the recommended energy intake for an entire meal.

Was there much difference between fast-food chains and full-service restaurants? 

Compared with fast-food chains, desserts offered at full-service restaurants were on average more calorific and were significantly more likely to exceed 600 kcal.

What is the calorie consumption  for a three-course meal in a major UK chain?

The average energy content for a starter, main meal and dessert (without the addition of an extra side or any drinks) would be approximately 1896 kcal – which equates to over three times the recommended energy intake for a main meal, and 95% of the recommended daily consumption of kcals for women, or 76% for men

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