Is the FDA Menu Labeling Requirement Going to Hurt my Restaurant Sales?


One of the questions we are frequently getting from customers is how the FDA menu labeling requirement mandating caloric counts on restaurant menus will hurt their sales.

It’s a tricky question, but here’s our answer.

Because the FDA caloric bill has not yet gone into effect for compliance nationally, research is relatively sparse in this area. While states like New York and California have had this requirement in place for many years now, much of the sales data is proprietary and very specific to each brand.

That said, there are several ‘self-published’ findings from many large brands. These should be taken with a grain of salt since these findings are published by the brand, but by and large they generally show no decrease in revenue after introducing caloric labeling. The findings also indicate a drop in average caloric value of an order, which would indicate that customers are generally opting towards lower calorie options, even if they are equivalently or more expensive.

Also, as we mentioned in the webinar we did on this topic, this information is very brand specific – brands like Starbucks cultivate an image of healthy options, good for you foods, and generally healthy offerings, and have seen no drop in reported revenue. Conversely, brands like Chipotle have embraced their high caloric values, and are self-reporting that this has actually increased their revenue in the long run in states where compliance is already mandatory.

The advice we’ve given all clients is to develop a strategy around adding caloric counts to your menus that works for your restaurant. Every restaurant concept is unique with different customer expectations. Do some strategizing to figure out what will work best for you.

Need more details on the FDA menu labeling requirement? Check out the National Restaurant Association’s comprehensive resource center.

Preparing for the FDA Menu Labeling: Part Five of Five

Over the past few years, many QSR and Fast Casual concepts have made the switch to Digital Menu Boards in preparation for the upcoming FDA menu labeling requirements. In some states it’s actually already been a requirement for them to meet this mandate.

One of the first questions we get from customers who have made the switch is “now what?” It is easy to put static content on a digital menu board but the real value is in optimizing your assets for the digital medium.  There are endless content strategies that can be employed to maximize product awareness and drive customer behavior.

Below are a few general digital menu board pro tips:WAND Pretzelmaker FDA Menu Compliant

Make them dynamic. There is a reason humans like to watch TV: we’re attracted to dynamic video content. Incorporate dynamic content such as videos and animated movement into your menu boards. It can be a big bold statement if that is on brand or it can be something as simple as showing the steam coming off a cup of coffee. Either way, incorporating movement into your content makes your menu boards more engaging.

Keep animations short and sweet. Just like the typical TV commercial, customers have a tolerance for motion graphics. We advise clients to have promos running for no more than 15 seconds each.

Use all your screens. There are very few restaurants that have just one menu board, typically there are between four to six screens per location. Take advantage of multiple-screens to create unique video content that uses all of them. An example is the full-board take over where all your screens suddenly cut to a short promo for an LTO or special exclusive, in-store only content. It’s a great way to get customers attention and build product awareness.

Change them frequently. With static boards, rolling out an LTO can be cumbersome, time-intensive and costly. With digital you have the ability to update content quarterly, monthly, weekly or daily if you choose. Changing up offers frequently allows you to get the most profitable promos and items in front of your best customers on a regular basis. Plus, you have the flexibility to add or remove content to quickly address supply situations and compliance needs. The power is in your hands.

When you invest in Digital Menu Boards, make sure you are getting the most out of your investment. Hold a brainstorming session with your creative team, look at your marketing calendar and really think about how you can use this channel to increase sales and profits.

Preparing for the FDA Caloric Menu Labeling: Part Three of Five

As we’ve been working through updating our customers’ Digital Menu Boards for the upcoming FDA caloric menu labeling requirements deadline, there’s something really awesome I’ve noticed: lots of restaurants are making the caloric count requirement work for them by creating some truly fantastic promotions in their restaurants.
WAND POP ChickenI thought I’d share a few calorie count promotional ideas of my own to help get you thinking about creative ways you could use this requirement to your advantage in your QSR or Fast Casual restaurant.

5 Under 500
Think about offering something with a clever alliteration such as 5 under 500. This type of promotion is short and catchy and allows you to highlight a number of menu items at once. It’s also easy for customers to grasp the concept right away so if they are in a rush and calorie conscious they can quickly decide what they want.

Daily Calorie Buster
If you have Digital Menu Boards a good promo idea is a daily or weekly Calorie Buster where you can highlight a different menu item that is a lower calorie option for customers to choose. With a name like Calorie Buster you could run some pretty cool dynamic video content to really grab customers’ attention.

Mix ‘n Match 400 Calorie Combos
Customers like to have things created customized for them so another fun idea is to do some sort of mix and match menu where they can choose a couple items to match together to equal a certain calorie amount. It allows you to let your customers choose the menu items they want at the calorie count they desire.

100 Calorie Power Ups
Another idea is to do something like a 100 Calorie Power Up menu, a short list of menu items for customers to choose from. A promo like this is great for adding extra items onto meals and is good for customers who are just stopping for a beverage or dessert. It’s also an easy thing to add onto an order.

I encourage everyone in the QSR/Fast Casual restaurant industry to take a look at how you are embracing calorie counts in your stores in lieu of the FDA caloric menu labeling requirement. When you apply a bit of creativity and have fun with your brand customers will respond and your sales will ultimately increase.


Preparing for the FDA Caloric Menu Labeling: Part Two of Five

As QSR/Fast Casuals prepare to roll out the FDA caloric menu labeling requirements there are a number of questions that have arisen on how to actually display the calorie counts on menus.

In part two of my blog series on this topic I’d like to explore a few of the finer details a bit further to help with restaurant management. Here are some more specifics on the guidelines for displaying calorie counts on menu boards.

WAND FDA Compliant MenuSize
. The size of the calorie counts can be no smaller than the size of your price or menu item, whichever is smaller. In other words, you can’t the smallest font size possible to display your caloric count.
Best practice: display your calorie counts in the same font size as your prices.

Location. Your calorie counts must be displayed next to the name of the price of the menu item. Most restaurants list the calorie counts next to the price as it makes the most sense from a general layout perspective. However, that can be confusing for the customer with so many numbers in one place.
Best practice: separate the calorie counts from the price points so it’s clearer to the customer.

Color. Calorie counts must be displayed in a same color or in a color at least as eye-catching as the menu item. In other words you can’t try to use a hard to read font color.
Best practice: keep it simple and use the same font color as your menu item whenever possible.

Contrast. The FDA guidelines specify to use the same background or one at least as contrasting as what you are using for the menu item.
Best practice: again, keep it easy and use the same background as you are already using for the menu item.

Combo meals. If a menu board lists three or more items in a combination then your menu board must list this in a range of calories, such as 500-800 calories. If your menu board lists only two choices in a combo meal then you should declare them with a slash 500/800.
Best practice: self-explanatory, you’ve got to follow the guidelines the FDA has set on this one.

As you’re updating your Digital Menu Boards be sure to rely on your restaurant technology and on the skills of your creative team to advise you on the best way to add calorie counts to your menu boards in a clean, consistent and FDA compliant manner.