Considerations for Implementing the FDA’s Restaurant Menu Labeling Laws
The FDA has published a guide to inform consumers about the Menu Labeling regulations and where they can find nutrition information. This recent guide brings up a good question: Are you ready to meet consumer expectations?
What the FDA requires, and what the diners in your restaurant want, may not always jibe. So let’s think about that.
You know how it works:
The calories have to be shown next to the menu item in a font that meets the requirements.
Additional nutrition information must be available upon request.
The succinct statement must be shown.
Additional nutrition information available upon request
The primary display of calories has been the focus since menu labeling was introduced. The availability of the additional nutrients is just as much a part of the regulations as the display of calories on the menu, so make sure you are complying with all aspects of the requirements.
How will it look? A printout? A self-serve kiosk? An easily-accessible poster? A web app?
How will you accommodate your hearing-impaired customers? Your sight-impaired customers? Customers with other limitations?
Do your managers and employees know how to get this information to the customers who ask for it? Is training staff on menu labeling requirements a part of your restaurant protocol?
What about customers who want the information before they order at a drive-through?
The Succinct Statement — “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary” — must appear on the bottom of your menu boards and menus.
Did you plan for this and convey it to your designer?
Part of the FDA’s reasoning for the menu labeling requirement is to encourage Americans to adopt healthier eating patterns. Their recent publication offers some tips on making good choices, such as asking for sauces or salad dressings on the side.
How will you accommodate customers who ask for substitutions? Is putting together a “high-protein” or “low-carb” combination something you want to do?
Can you offer a calorie calculator for people who want to stay under a specific threshold?
Do you need to rethink training for your servers or managers?
More specific daily caloric needs are based on age, sex, and activity level. The FDA has a chart available here. Would your customers like you to have this chart available?
How can you use the new menu labeling laws to build trust or draw in more customers?