Choices That Make a Difference

January 21, 2015

Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and other elite tennis players know how nutrition affects the way they feel, how well they perform, and how quickly they bounce back from a tough practice or match. So what better place for Restaurant Associates, Levy Restaurants and Compass Group USA’s Business Excellence Team to roll out Balance Kitchen than at the 2013 U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York?

Balance Kitchen is the latest in nutrition and wellness at Compass Group and offers clients and customers a flexible roadmap for a more healthful, sustainable and informative culinary experience.

At the U.S. Open, the approach even meant remaking the players’ dining area and accounting for the high nutrient needs of elite athletes.

“We focused on total customization,” says Deanne Brandstetter, vice president of nutrition and wellness at Compass Group. “One of the most popular offerings was a cook-to order pasta station that allowed the players to pick their pasta, sauce, vegetables and lean protein. They could also select what fruits and/or vegetables they desired at the fresh-pressed juice station.

The Balance Kitchen concept is the latest offering under the Balance portfolio that supplanted the Balance Choices concept Compass Group USA debuted in 2004. “We needed a way to link nutrition and wellness with sustainability,” Brandstetter says of Balance. “We also needed to build a model that reflects the variety of clients and customers we have. A one-size fits-all approach was not going to work.”

Compass-owned companies serve everyone from students of all ages and businesspeople to the public attending a sporting event or visiting a museum. Not only do the venues have varying resources, their diners care about different aspects of nutrition and wellness. “College students, for example, don’t want to hear about heart disease. They want to hear about having energy and looking good,” Brandstetter says.


The Balance portfolio that Compass Group USA makes available to its client companies is a flexible, wide-ranging program designed to support clients’ health and wellness goals by creating access to a variety of great tasting, better-for-you menu options and a food environment that encourages wellbeing, providing engagement, education and excitement in our cafés and beyond, and offering incentives to help drive healthy lifestyle behaviors. Here is a closer look at the three focus areas that make up Balance.


These options range from a whole+sum station, where diners choose a protein, grain and vegetable combination that doesn’t exceed 600 calories, to a Meeting Well catering program developed in conjunction with the American Cancer Society. “Be a Flexitarian” encourages diners to consider meatless meals, as well as meat selections blended with mushrooms, to reduce fat and calories and make the dishes a more sustainable food choice. “Snack Smart” addresses the consumer trend away from full meals to “grazing” throughout the day.

Education & Information

High consumer interest in nutritional content and individual ingredients is driving operators to provide more and better information about their meals. With Balance, they can do that through monthly wellness programs, icons to identify healthy items, and links with technology. Compass Group’s nutrition and wellness leaders believe consumers’ desire for nutrition information is probably the single biggest change in foodservice since the late 1990s.

Compass’ proprietary Webtrition program offers operators a web-based platform to create and share recipes that have been reviewed and approved by chefs and RDs. Operators can also use Webtrition to print nutrition information for signage and post information on kiosks and dining center websites.

Webtrition also provides data to the popular application MyFitnessPal on smartphones and tablets. If a customer is having a hamburger in a Morrison café at a hospital, he or she can type in “Morrison hamburger,” and calories and nutrition info will appear in their food journal. Compass is also enhancing the user experience through bar code technology, as well as coordinating Webtrition with other apps.


In addition to loyalty points programs and pricing strategies, Compass Group offers support with how cafés are arranged to promote healthy eating, an approach called “choice architecture.”

Chartwells School Dining Services has been working closely with Cornell University child nutrition experts since 2012 to research “Smarter Lunchrooms” in an effort to get K-12 children to eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, a goal of the federal Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act.

Key findings released in May show that kids consume more fruits and vegetables if the items are offered in multiple café locations, if they are given lighthearted names such as “Lean Mean Green Beans” and “Bring It On Broccoli,” and if basic nutrition labels are provided.