Whether you own a local fast food joint or an upscale neighborhood restaurant, you’ve undoubtedly had diners request nutritional information for dishes. While this was a rare occurrence in the past when dining at restaurants was reserved for special occasions, it’s becoming increasingly common as Americans eat more and more of their meals out of their homes.
The problem is, it can costs restaurants a lot of time and money to have their menu items nutritionally analyzed and to reprint and reformat menus and boards to reflect new information. Fortunately, there are ways to provide nutritional information to your diners without burning a hole in your restaurant’s budget. If you are interested in providing diners with the nutrition information they desire, let’s explore some cost-saving ways to do so.
Affordable Ways to Offer Calorie Counts at Independently Owned Restaurants
Chain restaurant with more than 20 locations will be required to provide calorie information for menu items as of May 7, 2018. Of course, this information must be attained and presented in accordance with the FDA’s guidelines for the industry. This means reprinting all menus and boards so they include calorie info presented in the specific format.
For small, independently owned restaurants who don’t fit into this category, however, providing calorie information is optional and therefore doesn’t need to be done in the way the FDA suggests. This allows independent restaurants who wish to provide calorie information more freedom with how and where they want to present the information, saving them time and money.
Here are a few creative and cost-effective ways to offer calorie counts at your restaurant:
- Choose your menu: If your restaurant is open for more than just one meal per day, you can choose one menu to provide calorie counts on. I recommend providing calorie counts for the breakfast menu because it is typically the meal most diners try to make healthy choices for and it tends to be the smallest menu, meaning it would cost you the least amount of money to analyze the recipes and reprint the menus. This way, you can see if your diners’ responses to having calories on the menu are positive and determine if it would be worthwhile to add them on your other menus.
- Provide calorie counts on your website: Avoid reprinting your menus and instead provide calorie information on your website, as it won’t cost you to add the information there. Since most people nowadays have smartphones, it will be easy for diners to look up the calorie counts and use it to inform their decision. If diners don’t have access to a phone, staff could simply use their phones to inform diners of calorie information.
- Print one or two menus with nutritional information: Instead of redoing all your menus, just print one or two with the calorie counts, then you can give them to diners who request it. This will save you a lot of money on printing costs and it will give you a good sense of whether reprinting all the menus would be worthwhile. The more that diners request the menu with nutrition information or return to your restaurant because of the calorie counts, the more sense it would make to eventually reprint all your menus.
- Create a calorie board or pamphlet: Creating a single board or sign with the calorie information, rather than replacing all your menu boards, is a cost-effective way to provide diners with the information they desire in a fast food or casual restaurant setting, since replacing menu boards is costly. Just make sure it is easy to read and in plain sight.
Voluntarily providing calorie information doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking when you aren’t a large chain restaurant and therefore don’t have to closely follow the FDA guidelines.
Online Recipe Nutrition Analysis Offers Affordable Pricing
How you are going to make the calorie information available to diners is, of course, only half of the picture. You also have to consider how you are going to attain calorie information for each of your recipes. Unfortunately, there is a big misconception in the restaurant industry that recipe nutrition analysis is always very expensive. While most forms of nutrition analysis—like food labs, independent consultants, and CD-ROMs—are pricey, online nutrition analysis is a much more affordable option, which is especially important for independently owned restaurants on tighter budgets.
Analysis done by food labs and independent consultants can range between $400 and $800 per recipe. CD ROMs seem inexpensive, but they come with a bunch of hidden fees such as the cost of training and product upgrades. Online nutrition analysis software such as MenuCalc, however, offers prices as low as $49 a month for ten recipes and an unlimited amount of recipe analysis for $249 per month. Plus, the user-friendly software allows you to analyze your recipes quickly and with ease. With these options, you can choose what suits your restaurant and your budget the best.
One thing to look for when choosing an online recipe nutrition analysis software is that it is FDA-approved. There are many affordable nutrition analysis programs available on the web, but few of them have accurate USDA-compliant ingredient databases and provide allergen reports for your recipes—two very important things when it comes to nutrition analysis.
By using an FDA-approved online recipe nutrition analysis software and getting creative about how you offer nutritional information to your diners, you can provide accurate calorie counts for your recipes at an affordable price. The best part is, your diners will be thrilled that they have access to the calorie information they desire and can now make informed decisions about what to order. And when your diners are happy, your restaurant thrives.
MenuCalc offers affordable FDA-approved online recipe nutrition analysis for restaurants of any size. To get calorie counts and complete nutrition information for your menu items, contact us today.