Restaurants With ‘Xtreme’ Menu Items Are Doing Long-Term Damage (To Their Business)

This is an award you don't want to win.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has released its 2014 Xtreme Eating Awards and topping the list with a 3,540 calorie meal consisting of a “Monster” double burger and milkshake with a bottomless order of fries is Red Robin.

“[I]t’s the ‘single unhealthiest’ meal the group could find on more than 200 chain restaurant menus it reviewed…” says USA Today.

Also on the list three times is The Cheesecake Factory. And there’s Chevys Tex Mex with a combo plate, a seafood platter from Joe’s Crab Shack, ribs from Famous Dave’s and a deep-dish ranch pizza from BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse.

Restaurants appearing on the list that spoke with the newspaper counter that there are low-calorie options on their menu for those that want them. Red Robin’s SVP and CMO, Denny Marie Post, says that colossal meal is a mixture of their menu’s “most indulgent” items.

All of this might be true, but that’s not what’s getting the media attention. These chains are making a name for themselves for having the most fattening and unhealthy dishes. That can have a negative long-term effect.

We’re hearing all the time about how eating habits in this country are changing. Diners are looking for healthy options that will break bad lifestyle habits. If they feel that a restaurant doesn’t suit their “better” approach to eating, they won’t dine there. With all the options nowadays, they don’t have to.

These Xtreme Eating award “winners” are tying their brands to dishes that are unhealthy. And while they have healthy options, the people who would eat them will probably opt to go elsewhere to begin with. If you’re looking for a salad or a turkey burger, you’re not going to go to the place that’s best known for double cheeseburgers and endless French fries.

Certainly, there are people who enjoy these high-calorie dishes. They might be loyal customers who don’t want to see those dishes go anywhere. But to attract new customers, their reputation can’t be tied to these sorts of meals. And eventually, even the loyal customers will see that their Monster burger affinity might not be the best thing for them.

“I don’t think people really know just how bad these meals can be in restaurants,” said Paige Einstein, a dietitian with the Center. With no  shortage of  coverage of diet options, people will likely soon know to turn to the lighter side of things.