With the menu labeling compliance date about three months away, restaurants should be getting ready to implement new menus with calorie counts and nutrition information. If you haven’t started yet, however, you are not alone. I’m getting the feeling that plenty of restaurants are only now beginning the menu labeling compliance process.
So if you have yet to get a jump on putting calories on your menu, don’t worry. I’ve put together a comprehensive, step-by-step checklist for you to work your way through so your restaurant can be ready when May 7, 2018, rolls around.
A To-Do Checklist for the Menu Labeling Compliance Date
- Review/Streamline Your Menu: The first thing I recommend chefs or restaurateurs do in order to prepare for menu labeling compliance is to take a good look through their menus and decide which items can be taken off or revised. This step is totally optional, and if you like your menu just the way it is, feel free to skip it. However, you are going to have to reprint your menus for compliance anyways, so you might as well take advantage of the opportunity to streamline it. Plus, if you take off a few items that don’t sell as well, you’ll not only have less work when it comes to nutritionally analyzing them for their calorie counts, you’ll spend less money, too.
- Establish a Budget: The reason that the Trump administration delayed the menu labeling compliance date was to give restaurants more time to figure out how to cover the costs associated with compliance. So, in hope of minimizing costs throughout the process, I suggest getting clear about how much you can budget for menu labeling compliance. The most significant costs associated with menu labeling are typically the nutrition analysis portion and reprinting menus and signs. While some costs don’t vary much, others, like the cost of recipe analysis, have a huge range. That’s why it’s important that you choose an affordable option for recipe analysis.
Food labs and independent consultants tend to be overly pricey, with labs costing up to $800 per recipe analysis and consultants ranging from $300-$500 per recipe. CD-ROM nutrition analysis programs typically run a couple hundred dollars cheaper, but they often come with hidden costs for training or allowing multiple user access. The best option for any budget is an online nutrition analysis software like MenuCalc. Online software provides the most cost-effective option, with prices as low as $50 for 10 recipes per month or $250 per month for an unlimited number of recipes.
- Analyze Your Recipes: Once you’ve finalized your menu, it’s time to start the recipe analysis process. While there are a variety of options for how to get calorie counts and nutrition info for your recipes, many of them may not be the best fit—not only for your budget but for your timeline as well. For almost all restaurants, the quickest and easiest way to analyze your recipes is by using an FDA-compliant online nutrition analysis software. Food labs and independent consultants can take up to a month to provide you with results from the analysis, whereas with online software, you can analyze your recipes and get the results in mere minutes. Plus, online nutrition analysis software that uses a USDA-compiled database provides incredibly accurate results.
Staying organized and saving your work while you analyze your recipes is key, so make sure you choose an online software that keeps all your work in one place and backs up your account daily. The last thing you want is to have your work disappear a month before compliance!
- Reprint Your Menus/Signs: Once you’ve finished analyzing your recipes and you have all your calorie counts on hand, you can add them to your menu and have them reprinted. Also, make sure that any menu boards are updated to include calorie information as well. Before you do this, however, it’s a good idea to review the FDA’s guidelines for menus and menu boards. You’ll also want to be sure you print some booklets with detailed nutrition information for each menu item to make available to your diners upon request.
- Educate Staff About the Changes: Once your menus, boards, and booklets are reprinted, it’s time to talk to your staff about the changes you’ve made. Dedicate a staff meeting to walking them through the menu and informing them about the booklets of nutrition information so they can give them to diners if need be. Also, it’s a good idea to encourage staff to become familiar with what items are low-carb, low-fat, and low-calorie so they can recommend dishes to diners with specific dietary concerns.
- Update Your Website: If your restaurant’s menu is on your website, it’s a good idea to update that menu with your new calorie information as well. I also recommend including a web page that features all the detailed nutrition information for each menu item, so diners with special diets are able to decide what to eat before they come to the restaurant. This will benefit you too because diners will likely order more quickly if they have had the chance to review the calorie and nutrition information beforehand.
I know this may seem like a lot of work, but I assure you that if you get started now and use an online nutrition analysis software to analyze your recipes, you’ll be ready for compliance before you know it.
It’s also important to keep in mind the many benefits of nutrition labeling while you work your way through the process, as it can give you more motivation and remind you why making this information available to your diners is so important. Providing calorie counts and nutrition information, after all, could have incredible benefits for your business.
MenuCalc offers industry-leading, user-friendly, and affordable nutrition analysis software for chefs and restaurateurs. For more information or to set up an account, contact us today.