Since the FDA released official regulations around menu labeling in 2018, we’ve seen an overhaul of restaurant menus at every major chain restaurant (and similar retail food establishments) throughout the United States. This new menu labeling law, under the Affordable Care Act, was created to improve public health by providing the consumer the calorie information next to menu items on menu boards and restaurant menus, thus allowing them the opportunity to make better food choices by taking the mystery out of the calorie content in menu options.
In turn, consumer behavior has begun to evolve and change. Since the roll-out of the menu labeling law, diners are consciously making healthier food choices and reducing their caloric intake when dining out at anywhere from coffee shops to movie theaters. But the consumers are not the only party that is reaping the benefits. Retail food establishments across the country have begun to see a profitable change with this new consumer behavior, taking the headache out of menu labeling requirements and motivating them to readily report the nutrition facts in their menu items.
To this point, a study conducted in 2010 by Ohio State University yielded some pretty note-worthy results:
- With nutrition information: High calorie item sales decreased, and low calorie item sales increased.
- The revenue per entree sold remained consistent before, during and after the nutrition information was offered.
- The lowest-calorie offerings specifically increased in sales by at least 50%.
In an interview we conducted with the Jack Moran, VP of Brand, Food & Beverage at Le Pain Quotidien, the executive provided a particularly interesting inside scoop on what they’re seeing store-side:
“What we noticed was the lower the calories, the greater the sales, and the higher the calories, the greater the sales decline.”
In a direct comparison of top-selling menu items at their successful chain restaurant, there was a marked difference in receipts coming through point of purchase from before their establishment began providing calorie counts and additional nutritional information on their restaurant menus.
Prior to menu-labeling, the top-selling menu item was their Open-Faced Sandwich with grilled chicken and smoked mozzarella with a 690-calorie count selling for $10.25. After menu-labeling the top seller became Le Pain Quotidien’s Smoked Salmon Tartine with a much lower number of calories, 350 to be exact, but selling for nearly $4 more at $13.95.
Healthy eating practices have been making their way to restaurant meals in an extraordinary way over the last several years. Over time, the customer has become more discriminatory about not only the calorie counts and nutrition information in their food, but where it’s coming from. In the last 3-5 years, we’ve watched as the farm-to-table movement has made it’s way from restaurants and into consumer homes through platforms like door-to-door organics and Grubmarket.
In the beginning, menu-labeling was a response to the obesity epidemic throughout the United States. When menu labeling was put into effect under the Affordable Care Act, Americans were somewhat forced into an ice-bath of shocking nutritional information coming from the menu boards of their favorite quick service eateries. The menu labeling rule lifted a veil of “unknown” off of the eyes of unsuspecting diners, aggressively pushing them to observe what they may have not known to be unhealthy habits. Fast forward a few years and it’s the consumers themselves that have begun to take charge over their health and have cultivated the desire to fight chronic disease by conscious eating. The impact of menu labeling has begun to change in light of the new trend in consumer behavior.
The new consumer is impacting the food industry in such a way, that it is causing chain restaurants to begin to profit from what was once considered a hurdle in regards to selling low-calorie menu items. And some restaurant chains that have thrived on the healthy eating concept have seen exponential growth, beginning with menu labeling until today. A great example of this exact model is Energy Kitchen, an chain restaurant consisting of 10 locations based in New York that prides itself of not serving anything over 500 calories.
With revenue up 25% in a single year, Randy Schecter ( Energy Kitchen’s Managing Partner), is a believer in the healthy eating trends that have taken over consumer behavior at point of purchase. When asked how valuable calorie counts and other provisions of nutritional information are on a restaurant menu, Randy emphatically responded:
“Very valuable, nutrition has been the core of your business since day one. Nowadays people are very conscious of calorie intake, and they appreciate the fact that we are seamless and transparent in our food, I think there are very few places that are able to guide and educate like we do.”
If you haven’t considered the effect of menu labeling could have on your restaurant establishment, it might be time. Randy and Jack sure think so, and we do too.
Interested in placing calorie counts and nutrition information on your restaurant menus? MenuCalc is the industry leading menu-labeling software platform created for food establishments. Contact us today.