How to Make Menu Labeling Work to Your Advantage
Although independent operations are not required to post nutritionals (yet), it might make good business sense to rise to the challenge with menu labeling.
Calorie counts on menus will soon be commonplace. The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law March 23, 2010, includes a provision requiring restaurant chains with 20 units or more to print calories on menus, menu boards and merchandising materials. Also subject to the menu-labeling legislation are foodservice operations in schools and hospitals, convenience stores, mobile carts and vending machines. Additional information must be available upon request—calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber and protein. Although a date for compliance has not yet been set, some chains are already responding—and all will eventually need to comply.
Why should independent operators care? This legislation represents a tectonic shift in the industry, ushering in an era of enlightened diners who will expect nutritional information when dining out. If they know how many calories are in a burger at their favorite local chain, chances are they'll expect that information at their favorite mom and pop.
Four Steps to Help Implement Menu Labeling
Standardize your recipes with precise measurements, ingredient listing and plate specifications.
Hire a registered dietitian or other qualified nutrition professional to analyze nutritional information in your standardized recipes.
Train staff to follow recipe specifications accurately.
Put in place a system for maintaining and updating recipe data. Even small modifications to a recipe can significantly impact nutritionals. Appoint a staff member to be responsible for keeping track of changes and revamping data when needed.