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Is the Industry Ready for Menu Calorie Counts?

publication date: Apr 21, 2017
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author/source: John Wood

burger and fries

As of May 5th, 2017 restaurants and similar retail food outlets in the USA will be required by law to carry calorie counts on all their menus and literature, with additional nutritional information available on request, meaning a huge operational task lies ahead for thousands of US food outlets.

With Americans eating and drinking about one-third of their calories away from home, the hope is that the provision of this information will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.

From sit down restaurants and cafes to drive thru outlets and ice cream providers, the legislation applies to a wide variety of eat in and take-out food establishments, specifically those that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name, and offering for sale substantially the same menu items.

In addition to presenting calorie counts on menus and menu boards, they must also be declared on signs adjacent to foods on display and next to self-serve foods that are standard menu items.

Customers must also be advised on their "suggested" daily calorie intake, i.e. generally 2,000, but this figure may vary.

Businesses will also be required by law to post a statement confirming that nutritional information is available on request - covering total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein - meaning additional demands on resources to prepare all the necessary facts and figures before May 5th.

And with the mandatory requirement to source all data from official nutrient databases, US F&B businesses have a huge mountain to climb to become compliant with this new legislation.

And it's not just the information gathering and updating of literature that poses a pressure on organizations, but the added stress of having to substantiate the information to the FDS – including the method and data used to derive the values – certifying that the evidence is complete and that all has been done to present the customer with accurate information.

Nutrient values can be determined by using nutrient databases, cookbooks, laboratory analyses and the Nutrition Facts Label on packaged foods but this demands a huge level of time, effort and resource from members of staff, who could be adding value to the business instead.

I believe that the solution is to embrace an online kitchen management system that does all the hard work for you, relieving the huge amount of pressure that is placed on operational resources that could and should be better spent on increasing business profitability. There is simple and intuitive software out there that provides access to calorie counts and nutritional information at the click of a button, empowering the industry to tackle the new legislation head on. The right online system will also link all this information directly to both websites and digital signage thus making a cost saving by taking away the need for printing/re printing.

By easing the administrative requirements of the new legislation, members of staff will have more time to concentrate on adding value to the business, focusing on increased profitability through creativity and innovation, customer engagement, training and development and man management.

There is even potential for companies to turn this new legislative burden into an advantage. By embracing online kitchen management systems, businesses will not only swiftly comply with the new legislation, but they will also experience a wide array of additional benefits such as greater levels of consistency, easy control of costs and waste management, and even the tracking of allergens from ingredients right through to dishes and menus.

Our industry is bursting with innovation in technology for front of house: payment systems, loyalty CRMs, customer ordering and so much more. This new legislation puts a spotlight on how back of house has been largely neglected.



John WoodJohn Wood, Founder of Kitchen CUT, a revolutionary online kitchen management system is an Internationally renowned chef, who has achieved a Michelin star, 4 AA Rosettes and 13th Best restaurant in the World as some of his accolades. With over 35 years' experience as both chef, owner, F&B Director and Consultant John has worked at some of the World's best hotels and restaurants. John founded Kitchen CUT to help chefs, managers, operators and owners manage their business more efficiently, by developing market leading software to transform the way hospitality businesses operate.



ADDITIONAL LEGISLATION INFORMATION TAKEN FROM THE FDA WEBSITE

CALORIE COUNTS:

  • The number of calories contained in each standard menu item listed on the menu or menu board must be listed: (1) next to the name or the price of the associated standard menu item; (2) in a type size no smaller than that of the name or the price of the associated standard menu item, whichever is smaller; (3) in the same color, or a color at least as conspicuous as that used for the name of the associated standard menu item; and (4) with the same contrasting background or a background at least as contrasting as that used for the name of the associated standard menu item.
  • For covered vending machines, the calories must be posted on a sign (e.g., small placard, sticker, and poster) close to the article of food or selection button, subject to certain exceptions.
  • The way the calories must be displayed for ‘combination meals' depends on how many choices are listed on the menu / menu board. When the menu or menu board lists three or more choices for menu items in a combination meal (e.g., a sandwich with chips, a side salad, or fruit), the calories must be declared as a range, such as 450-700 calories. When the menu or menu board lists two choices for menu items in a combination meal (e.g., a sandwich with chips or a side salad), the calories must be declared as a slash, such as 350/450 calories
  • In addition to the calorie count itself, the FDA is requiring a succinct statement that says, “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary” to be included on menus and menu boards. An optional separate statement can be used on children's menus and menu boards as a substitute for or in addition to the succinct statement.

NUTRITIONAL DATA

  • The statement regarding the availability of the additional written nutrition information must be posted: (1) prominently and in a clear and conspicuous manner; (2) in a type size no smaller than that of any calorie declaration appearing on the same menu or menu board; (3) in the same color or in a color at least as conspicuous as that used for the calorie declarations; and (4) with the same contrasting background or a background at least as contrasting as that used for the calorie declarations.
  • Additional nutrition information is not required for foods sold in vending machines.

WILL I BE AFFECTED BY THE LEGISLATION?

  • Businesses affected by the legislation must be (1) be part of a chain of 20 or more locations, (2) doing business under the same name, and (3) offering for sale substantially the same menu items.
  • These include establishments such as restaurants that are quick service and/or sit-down, food take-out facilities, pizza delivery establishments, food facilities in entertainment venues (e.g., movie theaters, bowling alleys), cafeterias, coffee shops, superstores, grocery and convenience stores
  • School cafeterias serving foods through USDA school lunch and breakfast programs are not affected
  • Transportation vehicles, such as food trucks, planes and trains, are also not affected
  • Food facilities located in universities and colleges are affected if they meet the criteria listed above

GENERAL

  • Restaurants and similar retail food establishments will have one year from the date of publication of the menu labeling final rule to comply with the requirements. Establishments that are already posting nutrition information will have to be sure their labeling complies with the new requirements.