FDA Menu Board Labeling: The Rules You Need to Know

Using an online nutrition analysis software can give you the accurate calorie and nutrition information you need for FDA menu board labeling.

Using an online nutrition analysis software can give you the accurate calorie and nutrition information you need for FDA menu board labeling. Image source: Pixabay user StockSnap.

With all the recent attention that calorie labeling on menus has gotten in the past few months since the FDA’s compliance date, many smaller restaurants that aren’t required to provide menu labeling are jumping on board to do so anyway. Some of these establishments that are opting in offer counter service, such as small cafes and fast food restaurants. In these kinds of restaurants, menu boards are typically used instead of menus.

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from owners of such establishments about the guidelines for FDA menu board labeling. So today, let’s take a look at the basic labeling guidelines, different ways you can display your boards so customers have plenty of time to study the information, and how to obtain the information you need.

FDA Menu Board Labeling Guidelines

If your menu board is what most of your customers use to order from, then the FDA requires that it includes three pieces of important information:

Calorie Counts: You need calorie counts for each of the listed menu items. If one menu category has several variations (i.e. different types of pizza), then a calorie range can be used instead of including specific calorie counts for each one. The calorie amounts must be prefaced by “Calories” or “Cal” to give context.  

Calorie counts must appear next to the corresponding menu item or price of the item and must be in a similar (not smaller) font size and color as is used for the menu item or price on your menu board.

Nutrition Statement: A nutrition statement denoting the recommended daily caloric intake that customers should refer to as a frame of reference when reading the calorie counts (i.e. “2000 calories a day is general nutrition advice, but calorie needs may vary”) must appear on your menu board. Make sure it is easily legible. I recommend placing it at the bottom center of your menu board. The FDA requires that the font for the statement is not smaller than the font used for the calorie counts and is the same legible color.

Notification of Additional Nutrition Info: In addition to providing calorie counts and a nutrition statement, the menu board must also notify customers that additional nutrition information is available upon request it. While the specific nutrition information required does not have to appear on the menu board itself, it must be printed elsewhere using a legible font and must include accurate nutrition information for each menu item. Here is a list of the required categories you must provide nutrition information for:

  • Calories from fat
  • Total fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Trans fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Total carbohydrates
  • Fiber
  • Sugar
  • Protein

Ideas for Displaying Menu Boards

Now that you know what information is required on your menu board, it’s time to start thinking about how best to display it. Placing your board high on the wall behind the counter is one great option, but it can be hard for everyone waiting in line to see. Remember, having the calorie counts may mean that customers need a little more time to decide on what to order—and you certainly don’t want them jamming up the front of the line because they couldn’t see the information they needed while they were waiting.

This is why it’s a good idea to make sure customers have access to a menu board complete with calorie counts while they wait in line. I like the idea of placing menu boards on the sides of the lineup area, either on the wall at eye level or on sandwich boards.

If the layout of your establishment isn’t conducive to this, consider having a stack of laminated menus that customers can grab when they come in the door. Or, to save on printing costs, have a copy of the menu board, complete with calorie counts, on your website and put up a sign directing customers to the site. Nowadays, when almost everyone has a smartphone, this is a convenient option.

How to Get Information for Your Menu Board

No matter how or where you end up displaying your menu boards, you first have to obtain the calorie information to post on them. To do this, I recommend using an FDA-compliant online nutrition analysis software that is easy to use and highly accurate. Plus, online software has affordable pricing plans, so you won’t break your restaurant’s budget by getting the information for your menu board.

If you are short on time, you can have a menu labeling expert consultant do the work for you. That way, all you have to worry about is designing and printing your menu boards and deciding where to put them. And once they’re up and ready, your customers will be thrilled to have clear, legible signs with accurate calorie information that helps them make more informed choices about what they order.

MenuCalc is an industry-leading online nutrition analysis software that helps restaurants of all sizes obtain FDA- compliant calorie counts and nutrition information. You can sign up for a free 15-day trial to start. To connect with one of our expert consultants or to set up an account, contact us today.

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