Pen with nutrition factsWhile it’s easy for restaurant operators and their franchisees to intuitively look for reasons to fear menu labeling, there are actually many positive attributes to the legislative requirements, and the long-term results can be a good thing.
Menu labeling from a franchisor perspective is not all bad nor should the mandates be victim of all the negative publicity they seem to be generating. In fact, there are many reasons why food service operators should love menu labeling and want to publish their nutritionals right away, just as key brands, such as Starbucks, Panera, and McDonalds, have done. Here are my top five reasons why:
1. Brand food/flavor consistency. For franchise operators, menu labeling is providing the foundation to create a great-tasting experience regardless of zip codes. This means that customers from Washington, D.C. to Washington State will have a consistent brand experience when it comes to your food. This is what everyone strives for and should be viewed as a win-win for restaurant brands and their customers.
2. Food cost savings/stability. Since your brand will stay consistent with the food, your food costs will stay stable as a result. This is because everyone should be using the same recipe with the exact same ingredient weight and product consistency every time a dish is prepared. All of this should put money back in your pockets because it will eliminate ingredient overage. This could mean a savings of up to tens of thousands of dollars per year.
3. Level playing field. The great news about menu labeling is that it doesn’t just cover restaurants. This means that convenience stores, cafeterias, food service facilities in entertainment venues, grocery stores, bakeries, and a host of other places will have to meet the same regulations as everyone else. This will work to create a level playing field for many food service operators, as everyone is now required to follow the same guidelines. For consumers, it means they will have the same access to information across any restaurant, c-store or food bar required to follow the menu labeling mandates.
4. One rule. While many were not happy about the federal government stepping in, what it accomplished was a single piece of menu labeling legislation that everyone can follow. At the time, cities as close as two hours apart were being held to different legislation standards. Without the federal ruling, we will continue to have this horrible patchwork of state and regional legislation even within the same concept and menu.
5. Consumers like information. Whether it’s the number of calories in their skinny vanilla latte or in their triple-decker brownie à  la mode, consumers like knowing what’s in their food.This gives them the freedom to make an informed decision and to decide if the item they want is worth the calories associated with it. Most likely, they will not change their ordering habits much if at all, but it is right to tell people what is in the food they’re eating. Once that is done, your customers can decide if they still want to eat it. People need these numbers to make better dining out decisions.
It is easy to understand why food-service operators are reacting so strongly to menu labeling legislation. There is a lot to learn about the mandates and how they will directly impact food-service operations. It’s not all bad, however, and it’s important to learn how to work with the rulings.