In the future, self-service lunch lines will provide customers with individualised real-time information on the nutritional value of their meal and guide them in making informed decisions about what they eat. Fazer Food Services, Metos, the Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences and AgentIT have innovated a smart complete service for easy monitoring of your nutritional intake. According to a recent user survey, the information provided by the service holds interest for lunch customers and helps them to put together more wholesome lunch meals.
Smart lunch lines give customers individualised real-time information on the nutritional value of meals put together at the counter – they indicate, for example, the amount of energy, fibre, fats, carbohydrates and protein contained in the meal. In smart counters, scales placed at each dish position weigh the amount of each individual food added on the plate. The service immediately indicates the amount of the food on the plate and the total amount of calories contained in the serving. After putting together a meal, the customer can print out a detailed summary of the nutrients contained in the meal and a comparison with meal recommendations, or receive them by e-mail.
“Our Smart Meal service helps staff restaurant customers to put together lunch meals that support their well-being and help them to keep their diets on track. The service is particularly beneficial to people on special diet, for example, to those on vegetarian diet, who should follow their protein intake. That said, it provides plenty of useful information for anyone interested in their nutrition,” says Anu Kokko, the director in charge of marketing and assortment development at Fazer Food Services.
The nutritional information produced by the service is gathered from the recipe software of lunch restaurant Amica. The background system calculates the nutritional values of all the lunch options on the basis of this information. Use of the smart line only requires registration in the service. Users identify themselves with a remotely readable RFID card.
The smart lunch line was created as the result of multi-disciplinary cooperation between nutrition, catering and information technology experts. The complete system, jointly implemented by Fazer Food Services, Metos, the Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences and AgentIT, is based on a smart line patented by the Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences. The service directed at customers consists of the Nutrime line developed by Metos and the Smart Meal service package implemented by Fazer Food Services. The National Technology Agency (TEKES) has supported the development work.
“Services that support one’s well-being are part of everyday life for more and more people, and interest in monitoring one’s nutritional intake is increasing. For the first time, we have integrated smart elements in a self-service counter. We believe that there is a demand for this type of complete package,” says Product Manager Katarina Furstenborg from Metos.
THE SERVICE GUIDES PEOPLE IN PUTTING TOGETHER HEALTHIER MEALS
The Smart Meal service was tested in spring 2013 at the staff restaurant of Fazer Food Services headquarters in Helsinki. The user survey revealed that people who have lunch at the staff restaurant are interested in the nutritional information relating to the lunch meals. According to the results of the survey, using the smart lunch line is easy, and it helps people to put together healthier meals. Sixty-six per cent of the people who responded to the survey said that using the service had had an impact on their eating habits, and 76 per cent said that it had increased their interest in healthy eating. Forty-eight percent of the respondents said that the service provided added value to having lunch at the staff restaurant.
“It gives me important information on the nutritional content of the food that I eat, and it helps me to choose healthier foods and put together more balanced meals.”
“Test users found it positive that the service makes people to think about what they eat. They also lauded the fact that the service indicates the actual amount of calories and weight of each food on your plate and tells you how healthy the complete meal is in light of nutritional recommendations. People who took part in the survey felt that the service helped them to make better-informed choices about what foods they eat and pay more attention to how they put together their meals. A part of the users reported that their portion sizes had decreased, and they had eaten more vegetables at every meal, during the time that they had used the service,” says Senior Teacher Riitta Tuikkanen from the Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences.
“I prefer to have vegetarian food at lunch, and the sufficiency of my protein intake has been a concern form me. Now, I can get accurate information on the nutritional content of our vegetarian meals, and ensure that I get all the proteins that I need from beans, chickpeas, etc.”
People who participated in the pilot study described the Smart Meal service as a “modern example plate” and felt that it actually brought something new to the way in which they monitor and manage their eating behaviour.
“According to the test users, information on, for example, the actual weight of steaks or the nutritional content of the complete meal has previously never been available at the restaurant. The users felt that the service revealed many deficiencies in nutritional information. The test users also found it positive that the service can be tailored to guide food-related choices on the basis of individual preferences,” says Riitta Tuikkanen, summing up the survey results.
“You can enter your individual information in the system. For example, if you have indicated that you have lactose intolerance, the line gives you a warning if you are about to help yourself to a food containing lactose.”
For many working adults, lunch is the only warm meal of the day, accounting for approximately a third of their daily nutritional intake. Studies show that staff restaurants serve healthier meals and that having lunch at a staff restaurant helps people to choose healthy foods even in their free time.
“An excellent tool for weight management and monitoring of eating habits. It indicates the amount [of food] that you put on your plate and its nutritional content – and what’s best, you get a summary in your e-mail!”
“There is clear evidence that a well-organised staff restaurant has a positive impact on the well-being, work satisfaction and efficiency of employees, and thus, on the profitability of the company. As the lunch customers get more tangible information on the food that they eat, they can modify their nutritional intake as they desire, with or without the help of experts. The user survey also revealed that the customers would like to see the changes promoting well-being be somehow reflected in the restaurant’s food selection. This information is valuable to us,” says Anu Kokko in conclusion.
The passages in italics are direct quotes from the free-form commentary provided by people who participated in the user survey. Multi-disciplinary cooperation between experts has been crucial to the development of the smart line. AgentIT provided the software development required to create the smart line and Metos supplied the physical counter and the serving furniture to which the software components were installed. Fazer Food Services provided the recipes and nutritional information, as well as a piloting environment, and participated in the specification of the piloting environment requirements and the development work of the line in the capacity of a catering expert. The Tourism and Catering department of the Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences carried out the usability and user experience survey at the pilot phase of the project.