Quick Tips for Restaurants Wanting to Create Nutrition Facts Panels

Outside of prohibition, this might be one of the most earth-shattering times in the restaurant industry. If you are a restaurant in this whirlwind of change called COVID-19, we get it, and we’re here for you. As a company that has worked side by side with food service businesses for over 17 years, when you felt the heat, we did too. And when you began shifting your business model to start offering food items that require nutrition facts panels, we knew exactly what we needed to do: have them ready for you and make them simple to create. And if you’re still a little on the fence, we’ve got our on-staff Registered Dietitian, Elysa Dinzes, bringing you her top 5 tips for those of you who might be new to labeling. Are you ready? Take it away Elysa.

1.  Include Ingredient Statements for External Ingredients

When you are using a nutrition database to create Nutrition Facts panels, as you would in MenuCalc, many times you may have to manually enter what is called an “external ingredient”. An example of an external ingredient could be a sauce or marinade that you’ve made in house. And this particular house-made sauce tends to support the larger recipe or recipes that you are creating nutrition panels for.
When entering an external ingredient into your personal ingredient database, it’s quite common to forget to include the ingredient statement that accompanies this “external ingredient’. For example, an ingredient statement for breaded eggplant slices might look like this  “Eggplant Slices (eggplant, flour, canola oil, egg, salt, black pepper)”. An ingredient statement is not necessary for restaurant calorie labeling, but is required on a nutrition fact panel.  So if you’re looking to turn your nutritional analysis into a nutrition fact panel, first check to make sure that all of your external ingredients have ingredient statements that include all of the ingredients within.  If they don’t, add them back in exactly the same order as you see them on the ingredient’s packaging label.

2.   Allergen Information

You might be familiar with allergen information if you’ve needed to have it handy for customers dining in your restaurant. Per the FDA, allergen information is required on a nutrition facts panel in the form of an allergen statement that reflects the presence of any of the Top 8 food allergens. When using the MenuCalc nutrition panel feature, make sure to check off all of the applicable allergens when adding a new recipe or an external ingredient into MenuCalc. If you didn’t do this, specifically when you added external ingredients for your restaurant’s calorie labeling, your nutrition panel will not accurately reflect your recipe’s ingredient contents.

3.  Serving Size and Servings Per Container

When transferring your restaurant’s nutritional information into a nutrition fact panel, you may want to edit the serving size and/or the servings per container.  A serving size can be any of the following:  “1 container”, “1 sandwich”, “1/2 cup”, “1/2 container”, etc.  If there is more than one serving in the container, you’ll need to make sure that the “servings per container” is reflected accurately. For example, if you wanted to take a popular menu item of yours that is typically one serving and translate it into a 4-serving dish for a family style meal, then the “servings per container” would then be 4. It’s a simple switch, but a detail that’s easy to miss. If the servings per container is not reflected accurately on your label, the nutrition information for a single portion size will be inaccurate.

4.  Select Required Nutrients

When creating a recipe in MenuCalc, you have the option to select particular nutrients in order to capture their information in your nutrition report. If you want to take a menu recipe and make a nutrition panel for it, these nutrients need to be reflected on your panel, so it’s important that these boxes are checked off in the platform. When these boxes are checked, all of the nutrients will show up on your label if you choose to transfer the nutritional information to a nutrition fact panel. While most of the nutrients offered in MenuCalc are required on your nutrition panel, the new 2020 label format does not require certain nutrients ( such as Vitamin C and Vitamin A). So you can choose to include them or leave them off while still remaining in compliance with FDA requirements.

5. Check for Errors

To err is human, for this reason it’s always a good rule of thumb to check your nutritional analysis or label for errors.  If any of the nutrients seem too high or low, there may be an error in how the recipe was entered. These errors typically surface regarding external ingredients, sub-recipes, serving size and servings per container. Luckily, the MenuCalc platform has an error-flagging feature for the times when numbers just aren’t adding up. If you opt for SKEPTIK, our user-error flagging feature, it will run silently in the background until an error is made so that you can make sure your labels are always accurate.

While pivoting into quick-heat, grab-n-go meals might be challenging, creating nutrition panels doesn’t have to be. With these tips, plus a handful of helpful built-in features provided in the MenuCalc platform, you can create nutrition labels for your menu items in minutes.

Elysa Dinzes, our staff R.D., gives her top 5 tips for restaurants who are new to creating nutrition facts panels.

Elysa Dinzes, is a Registered Dietitian that has found her career home within the food industry for nearly the past two decades and now serves as MenuCalc’s staff dietitian, using her industry experience to help restaurants and other foodservices achieve accuracy and efficiency regarding all things nutrition. Interested in working with Elysa? Contact us today. 

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