Using Self-order and Menu Design to Engage Health-conscious and Ingredient-sensitive Guests

Discover best practices for ensuring that your pledge to healthiness permeates your guest experience.

Over the last few years, we've witnessed a seismic shift in the way people approach their diets. In pursuit of healthfulness, consumers want to know what they're eating before they put it into their bodies. Some go so far as to say that if you can't pronounce the ingredients, it's not worth eating. A balanced diet doesn't require perfect habits, but it does require a working knowledge of ingredients, sources, and cooking processes. Given the growing emphasis on healthy eating, the food and restaurant industry has responded by choosing simple, natural ingredients instead of highly processed ones. Giants like Panera and Kraft have made PR splashes by announcing the move to "clean" ingredients. And the strategy certainly has legs: "All demographics—from Generation Z to Baby Boomers—say they would pay more for healthy options, including those that are GMO-free, have no artificial coloring/flavors and are deemed all natural" (Forbes). 

In addition to the trend toward organic and sustainably sourced options, guests are increasingly making food decisions based on known or suspected allergies. Know anyone with a peanut or gluten allergy?

Beyond press releases and a menu revamp, how do you showcase your options and your promise of healthy food? Here are a few ideas on how to make sure your pledge to healthiness permeates your guest experience.


Transparency is a key tenet of a health-focused strategy. According to a Technomic Survey, 40% of Millennials and Generation Z check nutritional information on menus prior to ordering. When you decide to make nutritional information highly visible, health and nutrition become less of a talking point and more a shared concern.

When a consumer feels aligned with your brand in this way, they’re far more likely to return. So how do you work nutritional information into the guest experience? Simply adding caloric information to your menu is an easy solution, but we recommend taking it a step further. 

At a self-order kiosk, you can weave the promise of health throughout the ordering experience. Here are some examples and best practices:  

  • A clean design and intuitive menu flow lets your food get the attention it deserves.
  • Photos of every element—from the plated meal down to a single sauce or topping—makes your menu and all its constituent parts feel more immediate and accessible—not to mention appetizing—to the guest. By seeing each ingredient up close as they build a bowl, burrito or burger, guests are made to feel like they have direct insight into your kitchen and your processes. 
  • Simplicity is a virtue—minimalism in your design mirrors the minimalism of natural, whole, or simple ingredients. 
  • Touchscreens give you the power to offer an abundance of information without making your menu feel cramped or complicated. By adding elements like "i" buttons to help guests access more information, you can offer more details about each item, whether it’s allergens, sourcing, ingredients, or anything else.

Self-order software from Xenial offers a calorie counting function that adds calories up as guests order. A calorie counter lets guests see what their choices mean as they make them.

The Power of Self-order in Practice 

A family walks in your door. One of them eats gluten-free, another is a vegetarian, and the third eats anything and everything. 

How do you accommodate them all? 

  • Option 1: Provide a one-size-fits-all menu. The outcome? Each of these guests will have to hunt for options, eliminating choices in their head as they read down the list. 
  • Option 2: Engineer menus customized for particular lifestyles. The outcome? Your gluten-free and vegetarian guests will be less aware of what they cannot have and instead keenly aware of the choices they do have. 

Engineering a Lifestyle-centric Menu

Choose the dietary profiles that make the most sense for your customer base and build experiences especially for them. Alternatively, a "build-your-own" meal can be a great solution. This empowers vegetarians to skip the meat, gluten-free diners to select available alternatives, and lactose-intolerant guests to choose dairy-free options—simply, and on their terms.

Such completely customizable meals can relieve some of the pressure of living with allergies or adhering to dietary protocols. And when guests have the power to take their time to customize their meal at a touchscreen rather than in a counter-service assembly line with a lineup of guests building behind them, the relief is even greater.  

Considering Self-order for your Concept?

Contact us to find out how our self-order solutions can help you create unforgettable guest experiences.