If there is one thing I’ve learned from working with restaurant chefs over the years, it’s that they are notoriously protective of their recipes—and rightfully so. You spend weeks, months, and sometimes years slaving over hot stoves in order to perfect your signature dishes, so it’s a severe loss when they end up in the wrong hands or go missing.
With the May 2018 deadline set by the FDA that requires restaurants with twenty or more locations to provide calories and nutritional information for their menu items, an increasing number of chefs are getting ready by forking over their recipes to nutritional consultants and food labs to have them assessed. This can be a nerve-wracking process if you are concerned about the confidentiality of your recipes. The good news is that opting for a reputable web-based nutritional analysis software is the best way to ensure your recipes are kept safe.
Food Labs, Consultants, CD-ROMS—Are They Safe?
If you’re a chef or owner of a restaurant that will be legally required to provide diners with nutrition information, you have a few options as to how to get your food nutritionally assessed. Food labs, independent nutritional consultants, and nutritional databases (web or CD based) are all acceptable means, as long as they meet FDA standards. But some are less reliable than others when it comes to protecting your recipes.
If you opt for using a food lab, you will have to send in physical food samples for assessment (ie. a piece of your famous chicken piccata or a spoonful of your prized green pea risotto). Labs do have solid confidentiality and privacy agreements, so you wouldn’t necessarily have to worry about your secret recipes being shared or stolen. But many chefs are simply not comfortable sending their beloved food off into the abyss. Plus, for a busy chef or restaurant owner, this is definitely the most time-consuming, finicky, and expensive method of assessment.
Having your recipes assessed by an independent consultant presents a few more risks. Instead of having physical samples of your food assessed, the consultant typically enters your recipes using a CD-ROM software—oftentimes an outdated one—on their personal computer. While most consultants have some kind of confidentiality agreement, you have to email or mail your recipes to the consultant, which can be a bit risky. We all know that things can get lost or end up in the wrong hands with snail mail, and email boxes can be hacked and their contents exposed. Plus, you never know who has access to that consultant’s personal computer.
People often think CD-ROM based nutritional analysis is the safest way to assess your recipes because you do it yourself using a program installed on your computer. The problem is that some CDs charge over a thousand dollars to set you up with a secure login that allows you to protect your recipes with a password—a prohibitive cost, to say the least. They also don’t offer a cost effective option for multiple users, an invaluable feature of web-based software. In addition, you are responsible for making sure the ingredients and recipes are backed up regularly, which puts you at risk of losing all your precious information if something happens to the software, you lose your computer, or your computer unexpectedly crashes. And if this wasn’t enough to deter you, know that CD-ROMs are not compatible with most modern laptops or Apple/Mac computers.
Choosing Web-Based Analysis Offers Protection for Your Recipes
If you’re really concerned about protecting your recipes, then FDA-approved web-based nutritional analysis is your best bet. They use similar technology to what independent nutritional consultants use (nutritional databases), except you can plug your recipes in yourself.
You can feel confident that your recipes won’t be seen by unwanted eyes, as reputable web-based platforms are username and password-protected. And you don’t have to worry about losing your valuable information through a technological glitch because all of your ingredients and recipes are backed up daily. So, even if that recipe binder gets stolen or your prep cook spills a gallon of squash puree on a recipe, it won’t be the end of the world because it’s all saved in the cloud.
If you do opt for a web-based nutritional analysis software, make sure you ask questions about the confidentiality of your information and the security of the site. Mix-ups do happen, especially when it comes to technology, and some sites are safer than others. At MenuCalc, security and protection are important to us, which is why we have a PCI-compliant site, one of the most stringent security standards on the internet.
We add another layer of protection by encrypting ingredients with codes, ensuring that other users and even our staff won’t be able to read or decipher your recipes even if they did see them (which they wouldn’t—don’t worry!). The only instance in which one of our staff would view your recipes or access your file is if you opted for the consulting stream. MenuCalc offers you the option to consult with our team of industry experts, either for menu evaluation or to simply input and assess your recipes for you. If you choose this option, you can still access the file with your recipes and assessments—all of which will be protected by our strict confidentiality agreement.
Helping You Protect Your Recipes
When choosing a method of nutritional analysis, it’s important that you ask the right questions to ensure your recipes are protected. Remember, the FDA will require restaurants to be more forthcoming about the nutritional information in their recipes, not the recipes themselves, so you have a right to keep them private. Choosing a reputable web-based software with extra precautions in place to keep your information is safe is the way to go when it comes to nutritional analysis. After all, I truly understand that the restaurant industry is a competitive place and you want to keep your best kitchen secrets to yourself.
For safe, secure, and confidential FDA-approved nutritional analysis of your most prized recipes, contact MenuCalc, a leader in web-based nutritional analysis software.