Menu Labeling: Will you be ready for the new Dec. 1 deadline?

By Jennifer Wiebe

The Food and Drug Administration menu-labeling regulations for chain restaurants, originally slated to take effect late last year, are now slated to take effect December 1.

In the FDA’s own words, the regulations address an epidemic:

More than two thirds of adults and about a third of children in the United States are overweight or obese. Overconsumption of calories is one of the primary risk factors for overweight and obesity. About half of consumers' annual food dollars are spent on, and a third of total calories come from, foods prepared outside the home, including foods from restaurants and similar retail food establishments. Many people do not know, or underestimate, the calorie and nutrient content of these foods.

And as the National Restaurant Association has been advocating for years, differences in reporting requirements state to state cause confusion and inadequate information for many diners.

As you likely know if you are affected, the regulations apply to restaurants with 20 or more locations operating under the same name and serving substantially the same menu items. The requirements? To include calorie information for standard menu items on menus and menu boards (including digital menu boards), and to provide guests with information on other factors, including sodium and carbohydrate content, on request.

Determining the nutritional breakdown of your menu items is a major undertaking in itself, and big business for restaurant menu labeling consultants. It may require you to define and document recipes for menu items—or to export recipe information from your point of sale system.

And once you have the information in hand, you have additional work remaining: calorie information needs to be available on your printed menus, and also on your web and mobile ordering sites and both fixed and digital menu boards in the restaurant.

And while providing the additional required nutritional information online and on paper for guests who request it is an easy solution, some restaurant companies also find it valuable to include nutritional information in the menu at the point of sale, so staff can handle questions with a few button touches.

If you attended last year’s National Restaurant Association Show, you may have noted multiple educational sessions on the agenda, offering insight into the potential marketing upside of nutrition labeling. Many consumers will pay no attention to the calorie and nutritional breakdown of their restaurant meals. But guests who are looking for this information will gravitate to restaurants that help them understand their choices.

Have you implemented menu labeling for your restaurant brand?

Posted by Jennifer Wiebe

Occasional contributor of On Point, Jennifer led the marketing for SpeedLine from 2002 to 2018. She loves, books, yoga, playing at the beach, and commenting on bad TV with her family.

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Tags: Restaurant Management

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