Pandemic Renews Guests’ Focus on Healthier Eating

healthy eating

The global COVID-19 pandemic has prompted people to rethink how they work, how they gather with friends and family, and even how they eat.

According to the International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) 2020 Food & Health Survey, 85 percent of Americans have made a change in the way they eat or prepare food because of the pandemic, and more than 4 in 10 have reported healthier eating habits compared to before the pandemic began.

In its analysis, IFIC noted that the trend towards healthy eating has been on an upward trajectory since 2010—more than half of respondents said that the healthfulness of their food choices matters now more than they did a decade ago. Americans’ focus on health has become even more apparent in 2020; the IFIC survey found that nearly three-quarters of Americans reported that they are trying to consume less sugar this year, which 42 percent believe is unhealthy. In addition, more Americans reported following a specific diet or eating pattern within the past year compared to 2019, with some of the most popular diets focusing on high-protein foods.

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Roy Hendrickson, a seasoned chef who has served as executive chef at the Kona Kai Resort & Spa in San Diego for the past six years, says that prior to reopening in June, his team revitalized the resort’s menu options to meet the increased demand from guests for healthier options. The full-service resort includes a signature restaurant, Vessel Restaurant + Bar; poolside offerings at its Tiki pool and the newly added adult-only Paloma Pool; and in-room dining.

“Our operations are forever changing during this unprecedented time for everyone,” Hendrickson says. “We have worked diligently to maintain our level of service expected by us while following the up-to-date protocol to ensure the safety of our guests and our team.”

The Kona Kai staff have been fully trained on upholding the highest level of sanitation standards through its “Stay Safe, Start Living” program, including wearing face coverings and gloves, ensuring social and physical distancing, and frequently cleaning and sanitizing high-touch areas. In addition, Kona Kai began offering outdoor dining exclusively across Vessel’s 43,000 square feet of outdoor space. “We pivoted to provide outdoor dining only by using years of experience in ingenuity to provide the best ambiance possible. Kona Kai is optimal for this with lots of beautiful outdoor space with panoramic views of our sparkling marina and Point Loma,” Hendrickson explains.

Kona Kai also needed to update its menu in response to supply chain shortages that resulted from the pandemic and subsequent shutdowns. “We have had to work with a few shortcomings in the supply chain in light of the current situation; however, we have made great adjustments to our menu to meet the expectations of our guests,” Hendrickson says.

Despite these changes, the resort remains focused on healthy menu options as part of its overall premise of incorporating local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients, Hendrickson adds, and is incorporating ingredients that guests are looking for, like high-protein options. “One of the trends, as it relates to healthier menu options, is chickpeas. We recently added a dish on the menu that utilizes chickpea flour to make penne pasta. The dish also happens to be vegan and is quite seasonal, highlighting summer squash,” Hendrickson describes. “As we leverage guest feedback, we will continue to evolve our menu with a focus on using ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil as a healthier fat alternative.”

Hotel operators can further accommodate guest preferences by reworking dishes using plant-based ingredients or lower sugar alternatives.

While the circumstances remain challenging, Hendrickson says he is grateful to be serving guests once more. “I am thankful to be doing what I love and happy to show how good hospitality can continue even during these trying times for us all.”