On the Menu in 2015: Building Your Brand Through Menu Labeling

January 2, 2015

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Just before the highest calorie intake day of the year, the Food and Drug Administration announced the final rules for menu labeling the day before Thanksgiving. Part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, these regulations will require calories and other key nutrition facts be shared in restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations. After waiting more than three years, the regulations are final with an implementation date of November 2015. This is yet another “to do” in a challenging labor and commodity foodservice marketplace. However, the good news is with a holistic nutrition communications plan, these regulations present an opportunity to tell a great food and brand story to your guests. Why?

The playing field is even. The draft regulations included just restaurants and suggested a formula for other food establishments that took an abacus to understand. The final regulations put the consumers front and center, enabling them to make informed decisions about the food and drink they enjoy at not just restaurants, but also grocery store delis, convenience stores, movie theaters and other foodservice establishments. And both nonalcoholic and alcoholic beverages, which can be upwards of 700 calories per serving, must display nutrition information. Consumers will be seeing the numbers wherever they choose to eat.

The timing is right. Like most brands, you are probably putting the finishing touches on your 2015 planning as you read this post. Ideally, implementation of these regulations can be integrated into a menu launch or promotion you have planned in 2015, minimizing the impact to your operations. More important, you have the opportunity now to lay the groundwork with your management and store-level operations for the next year about why this matters to your guests and how they can be successful.

Menu labeling + your brand = a powerful combination. Many research studies have been conducted about the impact of menu labeling on consumer ordering patterns, and results are mixed. One thing is confirmed — regular guests can be surprised and even dismayed when they see large calorie counts associated with their favorite menu item. A holistic nutrition communications strategy involves profit maximizing menu copy and engineering, effective training to assist guests and consistent messaging inside and outside of your establishment.

We would love to talk to you about your menu labeling strategy. Our approach is proven — we have helped a major restaurant chain implement labeling across multiple concepts, taught a franchised system the importance of brand standards, and integrated nutrition communications into a broader health program for truck drivers. We are ready for the challenge of menu labeling. Are you?