Birmingham International Airport offers challenging menus

Birmingham International Airport offers a number of challenges for the business person, of which finding tasty, nutritious, yet low calorie options is one.  Not because there isn’t any, but simply because they are few per venue/eatery and comprise little to excite.

In saying this, a number of restaurants and cafes are now offering ‘lighter options’ marked on their menu.  Although it is an old concept, it is a concept still yet to mature in the UK, where other countries appear to be more practised in the art of tasty, healthier cuisine.

Let’s just say, it’s rather on the slim-side.

My recent trip to Birmingham International Airport found me at Frankie and Bennys (F&B).  Frankie and Bennys Birmingham Airport 20140603_145250It was well situated in the airport, and one of few which were conducive to conducting business either mobile working or with a colleague.

Frankie and Benny’s menu offered ‘lighter options’ where there is a symbol accompanied by calories on the menu, with an explanation of “all marked up main dishes are not only utterly delicious but are 650 calories or less.  We have also developed a range of suitable starters and desserts to complement them at 300 calories or less each” at the bottom of the menu. 

In time, they might offer more choice.  But at the moment, there are two starters comprising tomato soup or tomato and red onion salad.   Generally speaking most tomato based dishes are a safe bet, as are salad and soup, unless fat or oil has been added unduly.  At F&B the vegetable soup was only 150 calories and the salad 170 calories.

Slim pickings, but suitable for a starter if colleagues were having a starter and you wish to join in, or if one simply wanted the satisfaction and satiety effect.  Personaly, I would rather save the calories or opt for a more appetising main.  Logically, however sales will increase by at least 40% on the starter items or dessert items which are marked low calorie as we tend to become human calculators adding up calories on the menu to meet our energy restrictions/requirements or ‘saving’ them to use as a swap for a glass of wine or desert.

F and B lighter option menu 20140603_135524Speaking of mains, there was a little more choice but you won’t be awarded any prizes for guessing which may be marked as low calorie.  Typically spaghetti with seafood is a good bet unless the chef adds a liberal dose of olive oil.  Rest assured the Spaghetti Ocean of Frankie & Bennys is only 430 calories.  And some effort has gone to provide a light Spaghetti Bolognese, served with salad.  Although I couldn’t help wonder if that was a partial meal replacement rather than an additional item.  I decided to move on to the other options rather than test which way the combination worked.

Two pizzas were highlighted, although one was at the maximum of the ‘lighter option’ criteria of 650 and the other 635 calories.  Three questions arose at this point.  Since when does 650 calories constitute a light option?  Secondly, how do restaurants select their own criteria for ‘lighter’ i.e. is it light in calories and in fat?  Lastly, if the ‘lighter’ option is the lowest calorie pizza option on the menu, then what are the other options calorific values?  Maybe, ‘lighter’ should read ‘normal’ or ‘best’ and/or the others ‘high’ or ‘worse’. 

Frankie and Bennys citrus chicken 20140603_134421 (2)If pizza at 635 or 650 calories isn’t to your fancy then there are two more options for you to choose from.  Yet another salad but this time with grilled meat on the side.  Either a citrus chicken salad at 350 calories, but virtually no, if any, carbohydrate (although I was offered garlic bread!), just simply sheer protein and salad vegetables, or a 6 oz sirloin steak and salad, again no carbohydrate based food to accompany.

Although I wasn’t surprised the burgers, hotdogs and deep filled calzone didn’t appear to produce any natural contenders, I was a little surprised that none of the sandwiches or wraps included a ‘lighter option’ of less than 650 calories.

Finally, there was dessert, with a claim of “these dishes are not only utterly delicious but are 200 calories or less”, I was looking forward to a tasty lighter dessert which were not only ‘utterly delicious but also less than 200 calories’ as advertised on the menu. 

Frankie and Bennys Lemon Sorbet 20140603_141215Slim pickings again I’m afraid, as I found out when the dessert menu arrived.  I could choose either between lemon (very lemon, as I discovered) or mango sorbet.  Well no surprises there.  Exactly what one would probably choose if watching their calorific intake and there were no symbols or calories on the menu.  If it hadn’t been lunch time, I probably would have saved the calories for a drink in despair.

For any new restaurant offering healthier options/information on the menu, it would be great if you could provide us with a little more imagination than a few calorie markings on the commonly low calorie options.


© Extravitality 2014








Kathy Lewis, R.Nutr, BCApSc, MSc, MBA,
Author: Kathy Lewis, R.Nutr, BCApSc, MSc, MBA,
Kathy Lewis, Consultancy Director, enjoys a multidisciplinary career based on a portfolio of achievement.  Kathy is a Management Consultant for Executive Travel Wellbeing and Stress, Health Promotion Specialist, Consultant Nutritionist (Registered Nutritionist and World Public Health Nutritionist) and a Chartered Marketer with over 25 years of experience.   Her specialist areas include executive stress and wellbeing (including jet-lag and travel wellness),  travel nutrition, travel policies, corporate vitality, employee engagement, marketing and internal communications. Kathy holds several relevant degrees, Masters in Applied Psychology (MSc) with distinction for her research in Executive stress and maladaptive coping behaviours looking specifically at clinical work-based stress and the impact on healthy lifestyles, Masters in Business Administration (MBA), with distinctions achieved in Management Accounts, Statistics and Project Management, completed with a research-based dissertation in the marketing of healthy options in catering establishments, and a Bachelor degree in Nutrition and Food Science.Over the last 25 years, Kathy has worked as a consultant and advised in various industries, from travel, health and food to financial services and telecommunications, on nutrition, executive wellbeing, workplace health, change management, internal communications and employee engagement. She has worked with a variety of clients across local government, NHS, educational institutes, NGO’s, national and multinational companies. As a Management Consultant (post-MBA) Kathy was required to travel to several locations each week and in 2002 began her masters in Applied Psychology (& Health Promotion) as a result of observing the stress in senior managers.  She was awarded a distinction for both her research on work-related stress and maladaptive behaviours and her course work.  Prior to this, Kathy spent many years working with catering establishments to provide healthy options, and prior to this working in diet and fitness centres, following her degree in Human Nutrition and Food Science in 1989.   Combining all areas of experience and expertise was the obvious way forward, and subsequently founded the concept of business travel vitality and wellbeing. Kathy is a former Consulting Editor for Readers Digest Association Inc (USA) and Readers’ Digest UK (Vivat), as well as the former founding Non-Executive Editor for the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Food, Drink and Agriculture group. As an author, she has written a number of publications and a variety of articles in consumer publications and professional journals, with guest media appearances on a number of radio shows, including the BBC, London and regional radio.  She enjoys public speaking on a range of topics and is a regular speaker at professional events. Kathy is also the Vice Chair of The Caroline Walker Trust, Founder of the International Forum for Health Promotion and Education, a board advisor for the Tessa Sanderson Foundation and Academy, the Vice-Chair/former Chair for the Financial Services Board at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, former Trustee/Non-Executive Director for the Association of MBA’s (where she chaired the Governance Committee and was a member of the HR Committee and Strategic Working Party), former Honorary Secretary for the Institute of Health Promotion and Education, a founding Council Member of the Association for Nutrition. Kathy was also a committee member for the Food, Drink and Agriculture group at the Chartered Insitute of Marketing and a current Non-Executive Director at NZ Engineering. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Association of MBAs, Institute for Travel Management, Association for Woman Travel Executives, Nutrition Society, SENSE, World Public Health Nutrition Association, Association for Nutrition (UK) and International Travel Writers Alliance.  She is a former member of the Institute Institute of Directors, Royal Society of Arts and Institute of Health Promotion and Education.

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