American diners, put your money where your mouth is.

Calories don't count for some consumers
Ashley Bentley
Foodservice Focus

Restaurant owners, congressmen, local lawmakers and even restaurant goers themselves seem to be convinced that putting calorie, fat and sodium counts on menus would drastically change the way America eats.

Empirical evidence, however, supports a different idea.

In the year since New York City started waving nutritional information in front of consumers by way of menus, register receipts don’t show a wave of healthy eating by the city’s diners. Ask the diners, though, and they sing a different tune.

A Technomic Inc. survey from February, about eight months into the city’s new regulations, uncovered an overwhelming proportion of consumers who said that nutrition information at their fingertips was changing the way they ordered.

In the past year, I’ve only heard one restaurant chain, Le Pain Quotidien, claim that ordering at its restaurants had vastly changed as a result of the law.

It’s the same concept that arose when sliced apples became popular at fast-food restaurants. People wanted to see healthy options on the menus, but still ordered the fries.

Tim York, president of Markon Cooperative Inc., Salinas, Calif., told me that people still consider eating out a luxury, and although they might be health conscious at home, they splurge when they hit the restaurant booth.

I, myself, am one of those guilty people. Just this morning, instead of my usual grapes, strawberries or banana for breakfast, I had a ginormous breakfast burrito from Sonic that I don’t even want to know the calorie content of.

Of course, I added the tots. It was my reward to myself for hitting the keyboard two hours early this morning.

We’ve all grown up without nutrition information readily available at restaurants. Sure, you can poke around the internet and find calorie content for some chains, and some have even gone as far as to “conveniently” post it on the back side of the paper that covers your fast food tray, but I really have no idea how many calories I consume when I dine out.

What happens in the long term remains to be seen. But, unless a calorie-count listed next to that burger on the menu is enough to change the entire psychological experience involved in eating out, people are still not going to practice what they preach.

Ashley Bentley is a staff writer for The Packer, focusing her efforts on foodservice news. E-mail her at abentley@thepacker.com. Find more foodservice news at www.thepacker.com/foodservice.

Has nutrition information on menus changed the way you order at restaurants, or do you think it will?  Leave a comment and add your take.

For more analysis of this issue, including comments from restaurant operators, foodservice distributors and produce organizations, read the story
here. Details about California's recent implementation of its nutrition labeling law for restaurants are available here.