With relatively new food labeling laws, large restaurant chains are required to print restaurant nutrition information on their restaurant menus. Small food businesses are not obligated to do so, but some may choose to offer their customers this option, in order to show their support of healthy restaurant eating. Other venues may choose to simply provide menu labels near healthy options, rather than specific nutrition facts. Either way, a study by Drexel University’s School of Public Health has shown that restaurant nutrition information impacts customers’ purchasing decisions, ultimately leading customers to ordering fewer calories. Restaurant menus with healthy restaurant eating options may benefit from letting customers know about their healthy restaurant menus. However, despite the added comfort for dieting and health-conscious customers, restaurant nutrition labelling is usually not a worthwhile investment for small businesses, when not required by law.
Menu labelling is a restaurant marketing strategy that can attract customers on a strict diet. Those effected with diabetes and obesity can clearly benefit from knowledge of carbohydrate, sugar, fat and caloric meal content. A venue that offers healthy restaurant eating options should be confident enough in their restaurant menus to add a nutrition facts label, at least to some menu items. Many consumers are aware of the studies that have been done, showing that an overwhelming majority underestimate the caloric content of restaurant and fast food chain menu items. However, by being shown the estimated restaurant nutrition information for menu items, consumers may realize that restaurant menus usually contain some relatively healthy options, even beyond salad, and feel more comfortable dining out at that particular venue.
Despite the possibility of drawing in more customers, menu nutritional analysis and posting restaurant nutrition facts may not be the best decision for a venue not required to do so by law. Menu nutritional analysis is an expensive process that has not been proven to help venues draw in customers. In addition, menu nutritional analysis cannot take portion size difference and the way different chefs cook, into account. For example, some cooks add a lot of oil to a pan before frying an omelet, adding fat and calories, while others use the bare minimum. Businesses that update their restaurant menus on a regular or semi-regular basis will have to regularly invest in menu nutritional analysis, adding expenses to an already tough business.
Overall, venues planning to soon reach the location number limit, which would require them to show nutrition facts for their restaurant menus, should consider investing in menu nutritional analysis. Healthy restaurants aiming to reach the dieting and health-conscious markets may benefit from increased business and customer satisfaction if they choose to undergo menu nutritional analysis and post a nutritional facts label on menus. However, for the typical, small restaurant business, menu nutritional analysis is an investment that has not been proven to pay off.