Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
Thank God it's low-carb.
T.G.I. Friday's, the casual dining chain known for its flavor-laden but often-fattening foods, today will announce a deal with an unlikely partner: Atkins (yes, the diet Atkins).
Under a multiyear agreement, Atkins Nutritionals will become a very visible presence at all 523 domestic Friday's restaurants, partnering to create a stream of low-carb entrées, appetizers and desserts.
The move comes at a time carb-conscious consumers are cutting back on restaurant visits because they can't find low-carb meals they want. Sales of all low-carb products are expected to pass $15 billion this year. About 50 million Americans have at least tried a low-carb diet such as Atkins.
Behind all this: Americans desperate to trim fat. About 65% of Americans are overweight or obese. The proportion of Americans who are severely obese -- at least 100 pounds overweight -- has quadrupled since 1986.
''The whole demand for low-carb is on fire,'' says Richard Snead, CEO of Carlson Restaurants, parent company to Friday's, which is in 48 states and 55 countries. The new Atkins-approved dishes -- from tuna salad wraps to garlic chicken with mixed vegetables -- will be available beginning Dec. 9. All were developed in Friday's kitchens with Atkins' assistance, he says.
For Friday's, a latecomer to the low-carb arena, the move is a clear signal that restaurants of all types are taking America's changing eating habits seriously. For Atkins, the partnering with Friday's is just one of the marketing opportunities that the $100 million low-carb king has planned.
Earlier this year, Applebee's formed a pact with Weight Watchers, and Ruby Tuesday also has introduced a low-carb menu. New Atkins offerings will be featured on two full menu pages at Friday's -- with the number of carbohydrates in each item spelled out.
''One in four people I know is on the Atkins diet,'' says Lynn Collier, analyst at Stephens. ''This will make it much easier for them to go out to eat.''
Not all nutritionists applaud the rush to low-carb. ''It's a fad -- and not a very healthy one,'' says Peggy Boyd, a certified nutritionist in Los Altos, Calif. ''The Atkins diet doesn't supply the nutritional needs of most individuals. It's a Madison Avenue gimmick.''
Atkins executives insist that after 30 years -- and more than a dozen scientific studies -- the diet is no gimmick.
And beyond Friday's, the company also is talking with a sandwich chain and a pizza chain, says Matt Wiant, senior vice president at Atkins Nutritionals. While there is no formal deal, Blimpie offers a few Atkins products on its menu. Atkins also has 125 branded grocery items sold everywhere from Wal-Mart to 7-Eleven.
It's no accident that TV ads for the Friday's/Atkins gig will launch in January -- the heart of the diet season.
To see more of USAToday.com, or to subscribe, go to http://www.usatoday.com
© Copyright 2003 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.