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 PHILADELPHIA, March 22 /PRNewswire/ -- The results are in and it seems that corporate America is having a love affair with lunch time.
 Actually, it's more of a menage a trois -- executives torn between healthier dishes like salads, soups and turkey sandwiches and the sinful splurge of comfort foods such as macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and lemon meringue pie.
 Based on a nationwide survey of major U.S. corporations -- conducted by ARA Services, the world's leading provider of business dining and other diversified services -- the businessperson of today has a healthier diet than even three years ago. And that's including the occasional binge. The reasons? A more nutritionally aware consumer who understands a balanced diet, responsive food service management teams, and the emergence of lunch as "entertainment" through display cooking and creative promotions.
 On the Nutrition Wagon
 Interestingly enough, food service managers around the country find very little difference between the current eating habits of male and female executives. Both groups appear to be following the dietary guidelines of the Department of Agriculture's new "Eating Right Pyramid" which emphasizes grains, fruits and vegetables. However, once in a while, the need for a treat is too tempting to ignore.
 "They realize there's no need to be fanatical," says Katherine Waters, ARA's food service manager at Ciba Vision in Duluth, Ga. "I know several customers who will eat salads all week, and then indulge themselves on Friday with a thick, juicy hamburger or a slice of chocolate cake with ice cream."
 During the last week (March 22-26) of National Nutrition Month, ARA will be distributing pamphlets containing the pyramid's dietary information at corporate dining locations nationwide. Both the pamphlet, and the accompanying button to be worn by ARA employees, encourage a review of personal dietary programs by asking the question: "How's Your Lunch Life?" (The pamphlet is available free to the public through a toll-free number -- 1-800-DO-LUNCH.)
 Although today's executive workforce is overwhelmingly concerned with fat, calories and cholesterol, it was primarily the female contingent that sidled up to the soup and salad bar for the mid-day meal five years ago. Their male coworkers could usually be found lining up at the carvery station for slices of rare roast beef or ham, with potatoes, a buttered roll and a wedge of pie on the side. These days, a businessman's lunch may still come from the carvery station but the meat will most likely be turkey or broiled chicken, the buttered roll replaced by a chunk of fresh multi-grain bread and a pear or apple sitting in the dessert spot.
 Although in some corporate lunch rooms, females may still account for nearly 75 percent of all salad and vegetable plate purchases, the majority of offices show equal counts of both sexes lunching on lighter favorites like "soup and 1/2 sandwich" combos.
 Food service managers have responded to the growing interest in food and its preparation by literally inviting lunch customers into the kitchen to "see for themselves."
 "Our customers get to see the pizza dough being made from scratch as well as the fresh vegetables and ingredients we use in all our dishes," said Michael Johnson, ARA's food service manager at AMOCO in downtown Chicago. "They're sometimes surprised to see it's like their own homemade recipes, only in a bigger batch!"
 Lettuce Entertain You
 Miss Piggy once cautioned to "never eat more than you can lift." Sage advice when one approached the popular all-you-can-eat bars of the 80s. However, quality rather than quantity is today's watchword, and the made-to-order bar is a hit in corporate America's dining rooms. "Allegro," an ARA food service concept, offers patrons three varieties of fresh sauces over a choice of four pastas made in an Italian pasta machine in front of the customer. "The Wokery," another concept, lets lunch-goers select their stir-fry combinations from an array of exotic vegetables cooked to order.
 The surveyed managers all agree that competition from the proliferation of downtown restaurants and a marketing-savvy clientele create a need for inventive approaches to drawing customers into the company cafeteria. "Entertainment value" is the key phrase, and that's when lunch really goes Hollywood.
 One of ARA's most successful marketing programs, the "Guest Chef" series, brings a renowned local chef or cookbook author into the corporate kitchens to prepare the day's menu. Sometimes, the event becomes an extravaganza, as when John Barbier, ARA's food service manager at SmithKline Beecham in Philadelphia, hired a live steel band to perform while his Caribbean guest chef whipped up island delights.
 The Romance of Service
 In the most recent client satisfaction survey conducted throughout ARA's more than 800 business dining service accounts, customers continued to rate "service" as a major deciding factor in choosing where to eat. But what about those people who can't get away from the office? What happens to their "lunch life"? The answer is "room service."
 Robert Haynes, ARA's food service manager at Bear Stearns, a Wall Street brokerage firm in New York, delivers 25 percent of all his lunch meals to the brokers on the trading floor or at their desks.
 "They want something they can eat with one hand or less so they can stay on the phone making deals!" (Deli sandwiches are the usual selection as they can sit for an hour, if need be, until that phone transaction is completed.)
 With food service managers noticing a growing trend among the corporate workforce to make lunch the central meal of the day, "service" means maintaining the flexibility and variety needed to satisfy diverse tastes and diets -- from the healthy to the hedonistic.
 Headquartered in Philadelphia, ARA Services employs more than 124,000 people worldwide to help provide a wide range of services to industry, institutions, government and consumers including food and leisure, textile rental and maintenance, periodical distribution, healthcare and childcare.
 The company's Business Dining Services division serves nearly 3 million people every business day.
 -0- 3/22/93
 /CONTACT: Tita Cherrier of ARA Services, 215-238-3324/

CO: ARA Services ST: Pennsylvania IN: LEI SU:

CC-LJ -- PHFNS1 -- 8013 03/22/93 07:32 EST
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Date:Mar 22, 1993

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