Food Menu Label Changes And How It Affects Restaurant Owners

The Food and Drug Administration released new menu labeling rules last month, designed to bring a uniform system for restaurants in America. Some of the new rules however still remain unclear for restaurant owners.

According to the new rules, by December 2015, all restaurant chains with 20 or more units will be required to post calorie counts for regular menu items on menus and menu boards, while also offering more detailed information upon request in their restaurants.

Restaurants that already provide calorie counts may still need to make changes to their menu boards in order to comply with the new federal policy, and restaurants that do not provide calorie content, like PizzaRev, will need to start.

The casual pizza chain currently has 19 units and expects to add another 30 locations over the next year. In order to start providing more information to customers, they recently released a new online nutrition calculator. Guests can create their own pizzas using PizzaRev’s various toppings, and the calculator determines the calorie count for them as they go.

“We want to move toward further transparency,” said Nicholas Eckerman, PizzaRev’s cofounder and chief operating officer.

The new labeling rules are specific in terms of what nutritional information needs to be provided, restaurants will still have some flexibility in how they incorporate that information into their menu designs, said Chip English an attorney in the food and beverage practice at Davis Wright Tremaine in Washington, D.C.

Here are some more highlights from the new federal rules:

  • Limited-Time Offers – Temporary menu items, which are considered to be items on the menu for less than 60 days, are exempt from new labeling requirements.
  • Calorie Ranges Restaurants that offer build-your-own menus options, like Subway, can post a range of calories, because the ingredients will vary from customer to customer.
  • Alcohol Restaurants will also be required to post calorie counts for beverages, including alcohol. They can use calorie ranges for beer and wine, while customized cocktails will be exempt.
  • Information Upon Request When nutritional information is requested by a customer, restaurants will no longer be able to refer them to a website or online calculator, it needs to be provided in the restaurant.

Calorie Disclosure – Under the new laws, restaurants will be required to include the specific statement at least once on a menu, “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”

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