TJ Grisel - February 2018

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February 2018 Edition

Menu Labeling

Featured Speaker at the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York:
TJ Grisel, MenuTrinfo, LLC

Menu labeling makes a difference. Over 70% of Americans are overweight or obese. The nutrition information restaurants and similar retail food establishments will be providing is a great first step in curbing these soaring rates. While the government’s push for this information has been the strongest in getting it on menus, consumers have been looking for it for quite some time.

February 2018 Edition

According to a survey completed by the Interfaculty Initiative in Health Policy at Harvard University, 81 percent of Americans support nutrition labeling on menus. Some diners are dependent on nutrition information due to their health-related issues, like high blood pressure and diabetes. Providing nutrition information for these consumers makes choosing what to eat a much easier choice, and may attract new customers with similar dietary restrictions. 

On average, Americans get one-third of their total calories from food prepared outside the home, and tend to underestimate the average calories in meals. The problem isn’t merely a lack of education or nutrition expertise, as even registered dietitians and other trained nutrition professionals can significantly underestimate the calorie content of restaurant meals. It’s impossible for diners to know exactly what their food is comprised of without the establishment providing them with reliable nutrition information. Grilled chicken may be basted in a high-fat sauce, yielding way more calories than one might anticipate. A salad may be tossed in twice as much dressing as a guest could guess. Or, a sandwich could be served on a bun that’s brushed with oil before it reaches the guest, unbeknownst to them. Without declaration of these nutritional values, consumers will continue to live in the dark about their food choices, despite their best efforts. 

Consumers crave transparency, and want to know exactly what they’re eating. Even in establishments that aren’t covered by menu labeling mandates, we see diners requesting this information and choosing not to dine somewhere that doesn’t list full nutritionals. Those who elect to keep this information private give the illusion that there’s something to hide. With this ever-expanding sect of information-hungry consumers, that’s not something they take lightly. We’ve seen many brands face backlash on social media for not giving consumers what they want.  

Menu labeling is a win-win for the American consumer, as well as the foodservice industry. The information being required of covered establishments is what consumers are already asking for. Even without a federal push for transparency, it’s something that the industry must face head-on, or suffer the consequences with unhappy diners and dwindling business.