The "Dine To Your Heart's Content" program in Virginia: assessment of restaurateurs and consumers

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Virginia Tech


The "Dine To Your Heart's Content" program was assessed from points of view of selected patrons and restaurateurs in Virginia. Restaurateurs were interviewed and patrons responded to a mail questionnaire. Patrons were divided into four groups: 1)those following a heart healthy diet due to a physician's recommendation, 2)those with a self reported family history of heart disease, 3)those expressing interest in heart disease, and 4)those who expressed little or no interest in heart health.

The frequencies with which patrons dined away from home, dined in restaurants offering this program, and complied with a heart healthy diet when dining out were analyzed. There were no significant differences among groups relative to these factors. The perceived degree of benefit provided by this program also was investigated. Those expressing little or no interest in heart health reported receiving significantly less benefit from the program than the other groups (p<0.02). Restaurateurs' perceptions of the wants and needs of these patrons and of the advantages and disadvantages of this program were explored. The perceived needs for nutrition training for restaurateurs and their waitstaff also were examined. Ninety-six percent of the restaurateurs expressed a need for nutrition education. Patrons, restaurateurs, and waitstaff were tested for knowledge of food composition relative to fats and oils. The average score was 6.2 out of 13 points with no significant differences in scores among groups.

Major recommendations suggested for this program include: l)assistance to restaurateurs in the identification of appropriate menu items and in communicating menu attributes positively, and 2)improved nutritional education for both patrons and waitstaff to increase awareness and understanding of the program.