On December 31, 2016, all retail food establishments with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name will be required to publicly post the calorie information of standard menu items. In addition to posting the calorie information clearly on the menu, covered establishments must be able to provide written nutrition information about total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein upon consumer request. This directive from the FDA is to help people make more informed dietary choices, since Americans eat and drink approximately one-third of their daily calories away from home.
Restaurateurs can expect to feel the impact of this new law on many levels. A major concern is that calculating the calorie counts on every menu item will be costly and time consuming. Without technology to ease the burden, owners will soon see lower profits, which could lead to either lower employee wages and/or higher menu prices for their customers.
Even once calculated, it will be difficult to maintain accurate data. Many are concerned that they will be required to recalculate the nutritional value every time they alter a recipe. While specials or seasonal items do not fall under this new act, many chains leave some wiggle room in their recipes to cut down on costs and reduce waste. For example, the potpie may be a standard menu item but the 4 ounces of chicken in the recipe can be a combination of white and dark meat depending on what is on hand at the time of preparation. Restaurants will either need to adhere to a recipe that details a very specific ratio of light to dark meat or change the calorie take accordingly each day (and the latter is not possible on large display boards and preprinted menus). Even when dealing with the exact ingredient there can be variations as not every item will be exactly the same. The size of the scallops or the cut of the steak can cause discrepancies in calories and nutritional values. The time and effort associated to adhere to this new standard will take some adjustments to your standard operations.
The good news is that technologies to help are arriving on the scene. The industry is starting to see more affordable and reliable software and systems available that calculate nutritional values in FDA approved methods, minimizing the demands on your resources. Do some research on these new systems and find the one that fits your business model the best before making an investment.