Online Restaurant Menus: Do You Need Calorie Counts?

online menu labeling

Menus that you post on your website must have the same calorie information as the menus and menu boards a customer would find at your physical location.

As a restaurant owner, you are probably well aware of the final rule published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014. If you are a restaurant owner that is required to follow the FDA’s requirements, or if you are choosing to voluntarily opt-in, it is important to know all the ins and outs of the new final rule requirements to make sure you’re in compliance. In this article, we will focus in on posting your menu and menu items online and what is expected of you from the FDA when it comes to online calorie counts.

Final Rule

The FDA published the final rule for menu labeling on December 1, 2014 with a compliance date of May 5, 2017. The FDA then extended the deadline to May 7, 2018 to further allow comments on ways to reduce regulatory costs or increase the flexibility of the requirements.

The FDA refers to businesses that must follow the requirements as “covered establishments.” Covered establishments are restaurants and other retail food establishments that sell restaurant-type food and are part of a chain with 20 or more locations that do business under the same name and offer food for sale that are essentially the same menu items. The FDA provides a list of possible locations that might qualify as a covered establishment. Just because an establishment is on this list doesn’t mean that it’s a covered establishment, it must meet the other FDA requirements.

  • Chain Restaurants (quick service and sit-down)

  • Fast-food restaurants

  • Grocery and convenience stores

  • Food takeout facilities and delivery services

  • Entertainment venues

  • Cafeterias

  • Coffee shops

  • Superstores

  • Some managed food service operations

Online Menus

In the final rule, the most general menu labeling requirement is that your standard menu items must have calorie information displayed on menu and menu boards. The FDA specifically defines “menus” and “menu boards” as the following: “the primary writing of the covered establishment from which a customer makes an order selection. These include, but are not limited to, breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus; dessert menus; beverage menus; children’s menus; other specialty menus; electronic menus; and online menus.”

This means that the menus you post on your website must have the same calorie information as the menus and menu boards a customer would find at your physical location. The online menus are also subject to the same additional FDA final rule requirements. This includes the succinct statement and a statement of availability. The succinct statement is as follows: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” The statement of availability is as follows: “Additional nutrition information available upon request.”

The additional nutrition information that is provided by customer request must include the following information:

  • Total calories (cal)

  • Total fat (g)

  • Saturated fat (g)

  • Trans fat (g)

  • Cholesterol (mg)

  • Sodium (mg)

  • Totalcarbohydrate(g)

  • Dietaryfiber (g)

  • Sugars (g)

  • Protein (g)

If the FDA requests so, the establishment must supply the FDA with the way the establishment substantiated the nutrition values. One way to gather nutrition information and calorie counts is by using a nutrient database like MenuCalc.

MenuCalc is an industry-leading recipe analysis tool used by many restaurant, cafe, and convenience store owners. To start a free trial or learn more, contact us today.

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