Tag Archives: menu-labeling

Home From Chicago: The NRA Wrap-up

This year a few of our employees attended the National Restaurant Association’s annual show and have brought back some very valuable information for you.

In case you missed it:

        • American Metalcraft introduced a wonderful new line of products called Securit. This line includes menu cover, write-on boards and markers, smoker poles and crowd control posts and ropes.  These items are similar to items you may have already seen offered by Central Restaurant Products but they have a unique twist to them. The style of these items could give your restaurant a classic feel.
  • Cambro had a presentation that spotlighted the Versa Food Service System including the Versa Cart, Versa Work Table and more of the Versa accessories.
  • Waring introduced several new items at the show this year. Among these items were revamped waffle makers, spindle drink mixers with LED readouts and a higher-horsepower Margarita Madness blender.
  • Moffat is restyling their line of convection ovens into a classier looking stainless steel. Be watching for it to hit the market soon.
  • Southbend will be adding a new under fired broiler option to their build-my range series. As of now it will only be available on the 6 and 10 burner models.

Be watching our website for these items to become available.

Menu labeling update

A few more words on the menu-labeling controversy – I’m beginning to understand that it’s not necessarily about the cost associated with compliance, but more the manner in which the labeling is carried out, the difficulty in providing consistently accurate food content information across the board and the risk of frivolous lawsuits as a result of innocent errors in calculation.

As noted by a friend in the industry, any restaurant that makes items from scratch may add a pinch more of this or that to the recipe, making universal labeling nearly impossible; and if a staff member happens to pick up the wrong ladle, portion sizes are going to be inaccurate.

I commend organizations such as Yum! brands that have opted to voluntarily comply; my point is that until there is a national standard for menu labeling, there are going to be some difficulties, especially for smaller restaurant chains that do not have the resources of the international corporations.

States currently considering bills to require menu-labeling include Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia. Check out Google News to see what’s going on in menu-labeling legislation this week. I look forward to your comments and feedback about this important issue.

Menu-labeling passes Indiana House – make sure your voice is heard

The Indiana House Bill on menu-labeling passed with a vote of 51-46 this week. The bill will be assigned to a Senate committee before likely moving on to the Senate for a final vote.

HB 1207 would require chain restaurants with more than 20 units in Indiana to place calorie and carbohydrate data on menus or menu boards by July. These restaurants would also be required to make available to customers data on fat content, trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, fiber, protein and sugar.

Indiana is only the latest in a string of states pushing for menu-labeling legislation, including New York, California and Massachusetts.

While research does show that this information helps diners make healthier choices about what they eat, it does not take into consideration the significant costs these restaurant would incur in order to comply with the law.

If you assume an average menu board costs $300, an Indiana restaurant with only 20 units could be forced to spend as much as $6000; for a chain such as Taco Bell, which has hundreds of units across the state, that cost could soar into the tens of thousands.

In this already difficult time for restaurants, the National Restaurant Association is lobbying for a single, consistent, national nutrition labeling standard offering restaurants both the flexibility to provide nutritional data in a way that makes sense to its customers; and that also protects these restaurants from frivolous lawsuits.

According to the NRA, the Labeling Education and Nutrition (LEAN) Act would expand current packaged food labeling law to require a uniform national nutrition labeling standard for chain foodservice establishments, while providing a reasonable range of flexibility for the restaurant. While the LEAN Act would require a uniform national nutrition standard, the law also would provide for a single set of guidelines in how nutrition information is calculated and will provide legal protection for those restaurants that abide by the law.

Find out what your state is doing with nutrition labeling legislation; and write your local representatives and tell them how you feel.

Economy to drive foodservice trends of 2009

In 2009, the (lousy) economy will be the driving force behind trends we saw emerging in 2008, including energy conservation and sustainability, health and nutrition, and new technologies like online ordering, mobile applications and social networking.

Tough times inspire change

According to a poll conducted by the National Restaurant Association, the issue that had the greatest effect on companies in 2008 was –surprise!- the economy, followed closely by rising food costs, food safety, and nutrition and calorie legislation. So, although these are not new concepts, I think they’ll be back with a vengeance in 2009.

Not just about saving the planet anymore

Foodservice operators are scrambling to improve efficiency and productivity in light of the economic downturn (can we finally just call it a recession?), so I think sustainability and energy conservation will continue to be at the forefront of foodservice trends in 2009; now, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because our livelihood may depend on it.

According to the Associated Press, restaurants, colleges and other institutions are coming up with new, innovative ways to cut waste. We’re beginning to realize that these practices are good for more than just saving the planet—they’ve also helped improve the reputation and bottom line of many dining establishments.

I think it’s kind of a shame that it took some –but not all!- of us an economic crisis to become interested in “green” business and conservation. But, regardless of the reason, it can only help keep the industry afloat during these tough times.

Healthy eating trend sparks conversation and controversy

In the same way that we’re learning about the importance of conserving energy, we’re realizing that promoting health and nutrition will be crucial to staying prosperous in the foodservice business.

The controversy surrounding menu labeling, and the efforts of restaurants to introduce more healthful menu items, are just two examples of America’s new interest in healthy eating. And a 2008 investigation that found some restaurants had published inaccurate nutrition information, shows just how seriously consumers and federal regulators are taking it.

Niche Web communities maturing

It also shows just how much the Internet, and the developing trend of social networking has affected the industry. Whereas once, an obscure report in a trade journal would be overlooked by just about everyone, most consumers now have the tools to research and share just about any piece of information that’s out there.

And whereas, in 2008, we dabbled in social media, and restaurants began publishing menus online and a few even created the capability for online ordering, in 2009, this is a trend that the lagging economy will force everyone to embrace.

Not only will businesses have a web address, but they will become more conscious of their online presence; they will be more saavy when it comes to search engine optimization and PPC marketing. They will use the Internet to promote special events, catering, promotions and merchandise. They will offer applications for customers to download to their mobile phones. They won’t do it because it’s trendy; they’ll do it because they have to.

According to Food-Management.com, “Web community is important to more than just the ‘geeks’ among us. It also matters in personal and professional group life, and the food service industry — where networking is such a critical activity — is no exception.”

In closing, I think there are tough times ahead, but I think we as an industry are innovative –and perhaps, desperate!- enough to continue to develop new ways to prosper.

The economy is forcing us to save money by eliminating waste and conserving energy; the obesity epidemic is helping us realize that we can serve healthy food and that our customers will appreciate it; and the Internet is allowing us to do it together, using our growing network of online customers, colleagues and friends.

I think 2009 is going to be a great year for foodservice.

Does menu labeling help or hurt restaurants?

California and New York are among states pushing for legislation that would require restaurants to provide nutritional information on their menus. The law in New York City went into effect this year, after the National Restaurant Association unsuccessfully challenged it in a lawsuit.

The argument is that when consumers are better informed, they’ll make wiser decisions about what they eat? What do you think? Would menu labeling help or hurt your business? What would the cost of implementation be?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!