I’ve read a lot of arguments that Americans don’t look for quality — just quantity — when they eat out. Traditionally, restaurants that served large amounts of cheap food were considered more likely to succeed than restaurants that served quality food in smaller portions. While there's still an element of truth to that, the tide is turning. Restaurants that center on quality food served quickly — including organic produce, non-conventionally raised meats, and vegan or vegetarian options — are not only surviving; they're thriving, despite a higher price tag. 

One chain that is growing by leaps and bounds is Chipotle. The company recently announced an amazing 26 percent profit spurt in its last quarterly report. With quick service, and upgraded ingredients, people are chowing down at Chipotle, despite it being a bit more expensive meal than a typical fast-food restaurant. Some of the company's goals include using responsibly raised meat, a commitment to reducing and eventually eliminating GMO ingredients from their food line, not to mention the use of mostly pastured based dairy, and primarily organic produce.

I admit to enjoying Chipotle myself, so it's not surprising that a New York Times article about the company caught my eye. It featured Chipotle as well as other restaurants that follow the “food with integrity” motto. It appears that Chipotle isn’t alone in its success! 

Another thriving chain is Tender Greens. The website offers the company's food philosophy: “Tender greens is slow food done fast. Our restaurants serve fresh, healthy, chef-inspired, farmer’s market-sensible dishes at an affordable price in a relaxed environment. By working with small local farmers, ranchers, artisans, boutique wineries, breweries and coffee roasters, we are able to provide the best quality ingredients and products for our guests.”

A generation or two ago,  that concept would have been considered snooty. But the growing number of restaurants that are doing well selling healthy food appears to demonstrate that America is finally ready for such concepts. 

It wasn’t that many years ago — with the financial difficulties that came with the recession — that the future of healthy eating was in doubt. But instead of dying a slow death, it appears that the healthy food movement is growing. 

B. Hundson Riehle, research director for the National Restaurant Association, sheds more light on this issue. He points out, “The boomers are still strong, but dwindling in numbers and people between the ages of 18-34 are growing into their strength as consumers. A decade ago, I don’t think there was enough overall awareness of food issues to support this kind of enterprise.” 

I found that intriguing, as I can’t imagine my parents or the majority of their peers at the time appreciating what these newer restaurants bring (although many, including my parents, do now). 

Riehle says that this growing movement is “not a passing fad. It’s only going to get stronger.” 

For that, I am thrilled. 

Do you appreciate what these restaurants bring to the eating scene? What is most important to you when you eat out? 

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