July 19, 2015 | By Ron Miller |
If your restaurant has more than 20 locations, you’re probably already well versed in the new FDA menu nutrition labeling requirements. Even with the recently granted extension, on December 1, 2016, those restaurants will be required to include calorie information, front and center. But what about everyone else? If yours isn’t a big chain and you’re thinking of sitting this one out, you should think again.
As far back as the early 1990’s the FDA has been targeting restaurants to increase their level of nutrition labeling. This latest regulation came as part of Obamacare, dictating “restaurants or similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations to provide specified nutrition information for standard menu items.” It goes on to require that restaurants post calorie content “in a clear and conspicuous manner” on their menu, along with “a succinct statement concerning suggested daily caloric intake.”
The worry of course is that people will order less if they see the calories they’re about to order. In a 2009 Stanford University study conducted for Starbucks, researchers found that calorie labeling reduced the number of calories purchased by 6%. Customers achieved this by substituting a lower calorie item. That same study found that though calories decreased, total sales were unchanged and so too was profit.
A restaurant with calorie labeling might sell fewer french fries but sell more salads.
If you’ve only got one or just a few locations, you’re off the hook on this new regulation. Think about this though: if they haven’t already, in 2016, all of your largest competitors are going to be providing this information to their customers. And most of those customers are going to appreciate it. In fact, 76% of people surveyed, said they thought calorie labeling would be helpful.
You don’t have to take my word for it. It’s easy to test this for yourself. For a week, give menus with calories labeled to half your tables. Give the other half non-labeled menus. Mark the tickets and see what happens to your average ticket.
Getting calorie and other nutritional information used to be a real hassle but not any more. We offer Whisk, a recipe management application that happens to have the USDA nutritional database built in. Drop us a line if you’d like a demo. In the meantime, be thinking about how nutritional labeling can work out to your strategic advantage.
US Food and Drug Administration. (n.d.). Overview of FDA labeling requirements for restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm248732.htm
US Food and Drug Administration. (2015, July 9). Menu and Vending Machines Labeling Requirements. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm217762.htm
Health Eating Research. (2013, June). Impact of menu labeling on consumer behavior: A 2008-2012 update. Retrieved from http://healthyeatingresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/HER-RR-Menu-Labeling-FINAL-6-2013.pdf
Nestle, M. (2015, January 22). Food Politics » Calorie-labeling. Retrieved from http://www.foodpolitics.com/tag/calorie-labeling/
Harvard Law Review. (2015, May 9). Food labeling; nutrition labeling of standard menu items in restaurants and similar retail food establishments. Retrieved from http://harvardlawreview.org/2015/05/food-labeling-nutrition-labeling-of-standard-menu-items-in-restaurants-and-similar-retail-food-establishments/
Craig, B. (2013, July 24). Starbucks and King County menu labeling study food for thought – MenuTrinfo. Retrieved from http://www.menutrinfo.com/starbucks-and-king-county-menu-labeling-study-food-for-thought/