Menu Labeling

Menu Labeling: Do I Need Calories and Nutrition Information on My Menu?
What a great question. Overall, the answer is a resounding yes, but that “yes” applies to different food service businesses in different ways. For one, there are those who are required by law to place calorie counts and nutrition information on their menu. This menu labeling law went into effect years ago and is still enforced today for a specific part of the foodservice industry.  And then there are those who probably should because of increasing demand by customers for this information. This demand is so significant that it could affect your customer foot traffic on a regular basis.

Menu Labeling Laws

The FDA evoked menu labeling laws date all the way back to 2008 in California when the state legislature was passed that restaurants with 20 or more locations must list the calorie and nutrition information on their restaurant menus. This law came into effect as a result of a collaboration with the World Health Organization and a slew of other countries that were, like the United States, were in the midst of a harrowing obesity epidemic. 

This initiative aims to help consumers make informed decisions regarding their meal choices when dining out. Before menu labeling, dining guests were unaware of the potentially harmful impact that a meal away from home could pose upon their health. Prior to calorie counts on restaurant menus, menu items were focused on flavor and eye-bigger-than-stomach portions to keep their customers coming back for more. And it was this abundance of fast food and large portions that began to leave consumers heavier than they would like to be. As a result, any business that serves food that has an excess of 20 locations must place calorie counts on their menu as well as other nutrition information so that consumers can make better decisions about their meal choices.

menu labeling

Menu labeling might have begun as a law for the big guys, but consumers have taken this regulation into their own hands.

So Who Does this Apply To? 

As previously mentioned, this menu labeling law applies to foodservice businesses with 20 locations or more. The types of businesses include but are not limited to:

  • Fine Dining Restaurants
  • Fast Food Chains
  • Convenience Stores
  • Hotels
  • Hospitals
  • Quick Marts
  • Gas Stations
  • Movie Theaters

According to the FDA website: “Covered establishments must disclose the number of calories contained in standard items on menus and menu boards. For self-service foods and foods on display, calories must be listed in close proximity and clearly associated with the standard menu item. Businesses must also provide, upon request, the following written nutrition information for standard menu items: total calories; total fat; saturated fat; trans fat; cholesterol; sodium; total carbohydrates; sugars; fiber; and protein. In addition, two statements must be displayed—one indicating this written information is available upon request, and the other about daily calorie intake, indicating that 2,000 calories a day are used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”

However, just because your establishment doesn’t have 20 locations just yet, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look into placing calorie counts on your menu.

Consumer Demand

In our post-COVID society, consumers are more concerned than ever about their health. People have become well aware of how what they consume potentially affects on their personal health. We live in a world of contactless menus, plexiglass walls that separate the cashier from the customer and face coverings on serving staff to protect food. And with that comes an increased sensitivity to which foods benefit, or don’t benefit, one’s health.

For this reason, the demand for nutrition information has increased like never before. Nutrition transparency is the term being used to describe the demand by consumers to know what is in the foods that they are eating. From grocery retail to foodservice, diners report a personally vested interest that people have taken in understanding their food. Unsurprising, as food plays a vital role in everyone’s health and wellness. As a result, even independent restaurants noticed benefits in listing nutrition information on their menus. Because of this, indies meet the nutritional transparency demand, and reap those benefits.

According to recent reports, customer loyalty increased exponentially when menus list ingredients and allergens. In fact, studies show that consumers return to that restaurant over 30% more often than other restaurants. What would it mean to you to have your foot traffic increase by over 30%?

Food Allergy Awareness

Calories aren’t the only thing that customers are looking for. There is a growing population of over 25 million Americans that have been diagnosed with food allergies. To those with food allergies, or to a family that has young children with them, dining out presents unique challenges. Why? Because of the lack of nutritional transparency — there’s that word again. For food allergy sufferers, accurate nutrition information makes all the difference for their safety. However, with the right information, it could be a safe haven for allergy sufferers.

As far as menu labeling goes, food allergies are just as important as calories and other nutrition information.

As far as menu labeling goes, food allergies are just as important as calories and other nutrition information.

However, diners want to see other allergens as well. The top 8 only refer to the most well-known and common allergens. However, some people have allergies to other foods that don’t even make that list. Think of what menu labeling could do for your restaurant if you were able to reach a very sparingly-tapped market shall we say? Not only could it benefit your business, but it could help you do some good for those in your community.

So should you add calorie counts and nutrition information to your menu? We’ll let you be the judge of that.

If you are a restaurant, nutrition professional, or other foodservice business in need of nutrition analysis for your restaurant menus, we are here to help! Contact us today!


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