It’s hard to believe that this time last year, the industry was scrambling to prepare for menu labeling enforcement. Since then, seeing calories on menus has become so commonplace that it’s hard to imagine a time before it was required. While foodservice operators around the country have been enjoying the first year of relaxed enforcement, this is no time to let up on your compliance efforts. Here are some tips and tricks to ensure your brand finds continued success with menu labeling for years to come: 

  • Keep recipes written down. 

While a chef’s brain might be a great tool in creating new and exciting dishes, it’s not the best place to store your recipes. To ensure your posted caloric values are accurate and reliable, your stores must be following the same recipes that were used in your analysis. This means not deviating from ingredients, measurements, or cooking instructions. Bonus points- this is a great tool for training and consistency.

  • Document rationale for any “gray area” labeling decisions.

Not sure if that deli offering counts as restaurant-type food? Struggling to decide if that item is a market test or LTO? You’re not alone. Despite the FDA’s best efforts, regulations this big will always have some room for interpretation. If you find yourself in a position to decide yes or no to calories, document your reasoning. This all counts as part of your “reasonable basis” and can be used to your advantage if your establishment is ever questioned. 

  • Implement staff training. 

Training is a powerful tool in empowering staff to feel more confident at work. It also shows due diligence on behalf of your brand. Whether you utilize a third-party training course or develop one of your own, having well-informed staff leading your menu labeling efforts is a great investment. 

  • Consider menu labeling audits.

Memos and announcements may incite compliance efforts at the store level, but there’s no real way to know that your locations are truly on par unless you have an auditor pay them a visit. Menu labeling audits are going to become standard practice for those brands who are committed to offering their guests an enjoyable and informative experience, while avoiding fines and penalties from the powers that be. 

  • Don’t stop there – what else do your guests want?

Calories are just the beginning. Once guests get a taste for that level of transparency, chances are they’ll want more. Now that your recipes and order guides are in a great place from your menu labeling preparations, it’s time to consider checking for allergens and to possibly develop some lifestyle menus, like Paleo and keto. The industry is shifting towards a more personalized dining experience, and those that embrace this trend will reap the rewards. 

As we come up on year two of menu labeling enforcement, don’t let your brand lose steam. Ensure you’re set up for long-term success by setting up a solid foundation at both your corporate headquarters and your stores. If you need some extra guidance, you can always reach to our team of menu labeling experts at MenuTrinfo. We’re here to help your brand reach its true potential.