As we head into the final stretch of the year 2021 (can you believe it??), we’re sure your heads are a-buzz with ideas to implement for the up and coming year. Dining guests are becoming markedly more nutrition-conscious as the COVID years have made us more aware of our health than ever before. So, maybe you’re thinking about putting the nutrition information on your menu? Googling things like “nutrition analysis for restaurants” are we? We get it. There are lots of reasons to do it, but it’s also a big job. So if you don’t fit the bracket of a restaurant with 20+ locations, is it worth it? The emerging data says it is, and then some.
An Inside Look
We hear it from our restaurant clients/menucalc users all the time:
” My diners are constantly asking about nutrition information.”
“Our staff spends no less than a couple hours on the phone each day fielding nutrition questions.”
“Allergens are a constant question at our restaurant.”
Over a decade of serving 60,000 restaurant locations and we have to say that the consumer demand for nutrition information has only increased. So much so, that we’ve even had to pivot our business from only providing nutrition analysis for restaurants into something more so that we could better serve our restaurant clients in understanding what exactly their customers are looking for within the restaurant’s menu. By expanding our features we were able to help our customers reach a broader audience.
Nutrition Analysis for Restaurant Menus
Placing nutrition on your menu takes a nutrition analysis of all of your recipes — including your preps, homemade sauces, and side dishes, as well as your main course meals. These recipes are entered into a recipe database by matching each ingredient up to a USDA-backed nutritional database. Once you’ve matched your ingredients, you add your measurement, and then our built-in nutrition calculator, well, calculates the nutrition values of your ingredients so that you can provide a comprehensive report on every dish. Before nutrition analysis platforms like MenuCalc, if you wanted to place nutrition information on a menu, you’d have to hire a Dietitian or send your menu items out to a lab to have them analyzed. (It is important to note that this is still necessary for fried or fermented items).
An added plus to the MenuCalc platform is that you can still outsource this work to a professional. In the case that you don’t have the time or a dedicated staff member to input all of your recipes for you, you can send them to us and our Nutrition Team can quickly handle your menu labeling/nutrition analysis. (P.S. Menu labeling is just a fancy term for placing the nutrition information on your restaurant menu).
Allergens on Restaurant Menus
If for nothing else, allergens are reason enough to complete your menu nutrition analysis and place the nutrition information on your restaurant menu. Food allergies, once a taboo subject, has been a growing topic in our society the more health-minded we become. Matter of fact, over 32 million people have food allergies — and that number is only growing. There has been such a growing demand for food allergy awareness amongst restaurants that it’s one of the number one reasons that our restaurant clients come to us. When we first began as a company, our focus was mainly the 20+ location group that were required to place calorie counts on their menus by law.
Allergen Reporting on Restaurant Menus
Now we’ve gotten to a point where consumer demand has become a squeakier wheel than even the FDA regulations around menu labeling. Remember how we mentioned that we had to grow in order to meet the needs of our restaurants and their customers? Allergen-flagging was a key change that we made in order to do just that. Our clients came to us drowning in allergen questions, so as a solution, we included an allergen-flagging tool in the platform that allows a restaurant to seamlessly share information from their MenuCalc account onto their restaurant menu. We predict that this demand will only increase over time. According to restaurant.org:
New research shows that while 32 million Americans are living with a life-threatening food allergy, there are many more who experience some level of allergic reaction to foods. According to Food Allergy Research & Education, 85 million Americans avoid buying food with the top nine allergens (milk, wheat, eggs, sesame, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish and peanuts) because either they have allergies or members of their households do. This group spends $19 billion a year on products that are allergen-free.
While this is a growing demographic that can positively increase your revenue by adding the nutrition information to your restaurant menu, it’s also a way to feel good about what and who you’re serving.
Trending Categories for Restaurant Menus
Have you found that either you or your staff has been receiving an increased number of questions around plant-based items like “vegan” or “vegetarian”? Have you found that you just might need to start pivoting menu items to suit this category or create new ones altogether? While this branches a little further out from nutrition analysis, it’s still all about the ingredients. In order to define a dish as one that suits these categories, it has to have the right components. Vegan has to be completely animal-free, while vegetarian can allow for products that come from animals like “eggs” and “cheese” but don’t come as a result of slaughtering an animal. And the more consciously sourced, the better.
How Can You Meet These Demands?
Again, with these demands, we found ourselves growing right alongside our restaurant clients. Back in early 2020, we began brainstorming and researching ways to open up the lines of communication between the restaurant and their dining guests, allowing them to understand the needs of one another on everything cuisine and category-based. As we move towards our newest offering under the MenuCalc umbrella, it is our hope to assist those who take pride in offering plant-based and sustainably-sourced options to their dining guests. And it’s our desire to keep it free. To learn more about the emerging platform that can help you categorize your menu, offer nutrition information and improve your customer traffic, follow us on Instagram or Facebook.
So I guess if we go back to the original question asked at the beginning of this article: “Should I display nutrition information on my restaurant menu?”
I guess we should ask you, what do you think? (I think that google search for “nutrition analysis for restaurants” kinda paid off, right?)