Calories & Menu Boards: What You Need to Know (Part 1)

If you’re in food service, you might be starting to get nervous about the FDA requirements that govern how calorie counts must be listed on menu boards.  As the December 1st 2016 deadline approaches, if you haven’t already gotten moving, you might be getting really nervous.

FoodIn the first part of this two-part blog series, we’ll discuss questions you might have about the FDA’s requirements.

Does this apply to my business?  Not every food-service location has to comply with these requirements.  You only need to worry about the calorie-labeling regulations if your business:

Serves “restaurant-style” food
- That means: anything you eat soon after buying. Groceries don’t count, but food served at restaurants, drive-thrus, takeout locations, vending machines, delis, coffee shops, etc. all counts as restaurant-style

Has more than 20 locations
- The locations must all be using the same name, and mostly the same menu items

Is NOT part of a vehicle, like a food truck or a café car on a train.

If any one of these doesn’t match your business, congratulations; You’re in the clear! (At least with the FDA.  Some places, like New York City, have other menu board requirements, so check your local requirements before you get too excited.)

What information do I need to show? On your menu and/or menu board, you must show the calorie count for all standard menu items; that is, the ones you offer regularly.  The calorie count must be the same size as the name of the items—that means no more tiny fonts.

How do I find out the calorie count of my menu items? There are several ways.  Under the FDA’s rules, it’s A-okay to use the USDA’s database of collected food statistics to estimate the number of calories in each of your menu items. (You also probably want to collect other information while you’re at it, since the FDA guidelines also require other nutritional data to be available upon request.)  However, for greater accuracy, you might choose to contact a food science lab to have them do a direct analysis of your food. It all depends on your preferences and resources.

That’s all for now, check back in a few days for tips on how to seamlessly integrate calorie counts with your existing digital menu board.

Origin Display Group | | | 888-235-2579