Restaurants are adding "air-based" foods to their menus in an attempt to cater to what marketing strategists codename "the really, really, really, really carb-conscious customer".
"This is the customer who won't tolerate even a single carb in his or her meal," commented a spokesperson for McDonald's restaurants. "To the average person it sounds a little silly, I know, but at McDonalds, we take all of our customers seriously and that includes RRRRC's [really, really, really, really carb-conscious customers]. In order to serve these people better, we've added several new items to our menu. There's the McNothing sandwich, the McZero Pounder, the Big Blank and of course the Deluxe McNon-salad, which comes standard with our McUndressing."
Although McDonalds was among the first to tap into the no-carb craze, other franchises and small restaurants have followed suit.
"You don't have to be big to get on the no-carb bandwagon and profit by it," says Dan Tarrit, owner of Pit Stop: Coffee, a small drive-thru coffee restaurant in the Sacramento area. "At Pit Stop Coffee We have a full lineup of air-based coffee drinks for customers who don't want any carbs. I was skeptical that it would catch on, but this is the U.S. and people literally will pay you something for nothing. The key is really in the packaging. You've got to make that nothing appear like something. We offer regular hot no-coffee air and decaffeinated hot no-coffee air, but I have to admit its really the huge ‘NO CARBS!' written on the cups and on the menu that makes the product so appealing."
Despite the success of no-carb products, dieticians warn against eating nothing. "The no-carb, air-based diet is actually worse for people than the low carb diet," insists Dr. Sandy Meyersen, author of Eating Like A Pig: Ten Reasons Why Pigs Eat Better Than Americans. "With a low-carb diet, people are still eating something. They're overdoing it on proteins and losing out on essential nutrients, but at least they're eating. Actually, if you were to continue on a no-carb diet, you would end up starving yourself to death because I mean…they're not eating anything."
But many dieters and restaurant owners disagree. "Air is something," says Jill Tremayne, who says she lost 160 pounds in her first month of no-carb dieting.
While some have suggested that air is actually a free product, floating about and ready for the breathing in most parts of the world, restaurant owners and marketing wizards say that the key lies in the preparation.
"There's so many different ways that air-based products can be prepared and enjoyed," says food columnist Diane Willz of Dallas. "Air-based foods are as different as the restaurants who serve them. Even restaurants that haven't traditionally targeted health-conscious customers are joining in the profit. At Waffle Houses it's the Belgian Victory Waffles. Denny's is offering an entire line of nothing specials. George Webb sells a burger that they call the ___________. And of course there's my favorite, Taco Bell's Nada de Nada."