While the compliance date for menu labeling has come and gone, there are now many restaurants who are not required to provide calories counts and nutrition information on their menus that are choosing to do so voluntarily. Opting into the menu labeling law is a great thing for restaurants to do in order to keep up with the trends in the industry and to compete with large chain restaurants.
One of the most challenging parts of menu labeling is actually organizing a restaurant menu with all the new, required information. After all, there is a fine line between an informative menu and a cluttered one. So, if you have decided to provide calorie and nutrition information on your menu but don’t quite know how to best organize it, use these five tips to help you get started.
Organizing a Restaurant Menu: Simple, Practical Tips for FDA Compliance
All this information may seem a little overwhelming if you are at the very beginning of your menu labeling journey. If this is the case, there are a few great resources you may want to peruse first, as they’ll help you better understand menu labeling basics. First, check out our whitepaper on restaurant and retail food menu labeling , then skim through our post on understanding FDA guidelines.
Once you have a basic understanding of FDA menu labeling, you’ll be ready to start organizing your restaurant menu using these five tips:
- Place calorie counts in a column beside each menu item: Organizing the calorie counts for each of your menu items in a column will help customers compare and contrast each of the dishes, making it much easier to decide what to order. Just be sure it is easy to see which menu items the calorie counts correspond with. Also, don’t forget to preface the calorie amount with “Cal” or “Calories” so diners know what the number represents. Keep in mind that the FDA requires the calorie amounts to be listed in the same size and font as the menu item or price.
- Bold or italicize your calorie reference statement: The calorie reference statement is the sentence that puts the calorie counts into context. The standard calorie reference statement that restaurants use is something like: “2,000 calories a day is general nutrition advice but calorie needs may vary.” According to FDA guidelines, this statement must appear wherever calorie information is provided. It should be in a font size no smaller than the font used for menu items and calorie counts and the same color font. To make this statement stand out on your menu, I recommend bolding and/or italicizing it. You’ll also want to make sure the statement appears on each page (it is usually placed toward the bottom of the menu). That way, customers can reference it no matter where they are in the menu.
- Include allergen statements at the bottom of each page: With food allergies on the rise, it is critical to include allergen statements that alert diners to the presence of allergens in the kitchen. Most allergen statements look something like this: “Allergy statement: Menu items may contain or come into contact with WHEAT, MILK, EGGS, PEANUTS, TREE NUTS, FISH, SHELLFISH, and SOY. For more information, please speak with a manager.” This statement should be bolded and should appear at the bottom of each page of your menu. It also may be a good idea for servers to bring customers’ attention to this statement just in case diners with allergies don’t see it. If you are really concerned about allergic reactions, consider including a list of allergens for each dish on the menu. Simply writing, “contains soy” next to a menu item could provide a lot more clarity for diners.
- Place nutrient content claims directly next to menu items: Nutrient content claims (NCCs) are FDA-regulated terms that can be used to describe your menu items if they meet the right criteria. For instance, the FDA has specific guidelines for using the “low-fat” NCC. If your menu items qualify for any NCCs, you are free to use them on your menu. To find out if your menu items qualify for NCCs, use an online nutrition analysis software. All you have to do to see if your dishes qualify is enter the recipe and serving size, then the relevant NCCs will be flagged. When it comes to organizing NCCs on your menu, I recommend including them right beside the menu itemso it is clear which dish the NCC belongs to. Don’t be afraid to get colorful and creative with the way you present NCCs. For instance, some restaurants use colors to highlight the different claims, while others use symbols and have a key that tells diners which is which.
- Provide additional nutrition information separate from the menu: Your menu would be pretty cluttered if you tried to fit all the above information in it and add additional nutrition information on top of it all. That’s why I suggest keeping booklets that contain the additional nutrition information for each dish separate from the menu. If you’re worried customers won’t know this information is available, simply include a statement on your menu letting them know that additional nutrition information is available upon request. It‘s also a good idea to include this information on your restaurant’s website, in case customers are making orders for takeout and won’t have access to the booklets in-house.
Making Menu Labeling Compliance Easy
Posting calories on your menu doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. In fact, you can make it even quicker by working with an expert menu labeling consultant who can help you obtain your calorie counts and nutrition information. They can provide guidance as you organize your menu and will be able to walk you through all the FDA guidelines so you don’t have to worry about spending hours skimming through FDA compliance documents.
On the other hand, if you feel confident doing the work yourself, using an online nutrition analysis software is a quick and easy way to get it all done. Either way, the goal is ending up with an organized, compliant menu that offers information to diners about your establishment’s food. Whether you use these tips or work with a consultant, you can expect a fantastic end result.
MenuCalc is an online nutrition analysis software that makes it easy and affordable for restaurants to obtain calorie counts and nutrition information. To learn more, contact us today or try our 15-day free trial. Short on time or staff? Check out our consulting services to do the work for you.