Should You Include Your Restaurant Calorie Counts on Your Menu Board?

Updated: Jun 11, 2019



On average, adult men should consume 2,500 calories per day, while women should consume 2,000 per day.


If you run a restaurant, you've likely heard that the government requires chain restaurants to display calorie information. Although the law hasn't quite dripped down to single restaurants, should you follow the trend?


Restaurant calorie counts have many pros and cons. In this article, we'll discuss whether the decision to do so is right for you and your business.


When Did Restaurants Start Displaying Calorie Counts?


In 2008, New York City made putting calories on menus mandatory. This applied to both paper menus and fast food restaurants where people order from a sign hanging up.


In 2010, the federal government passed a law that chain restaurants also had to display their calorie counts. Due to many delays, this didn't actually go into effect until 2018. That's why, if you're not in New York City, it may seem new to see calorie counts all of a sudden.


Pros for Including Restaurant Calorie Counts


There is a long list of reasons why you should include the number of calories a food has on your menu. Let's go over some of them now.


1. It's a Federal Law for Chain Restaurants, Single Restaurants 


The law has gone into effect for chain restaurants, who have been required to disclose their calorie information since the summer of 2018.


While single restaurants are currently exempt, it's likely they'll be required to do the same thing at some point in the future.


This gets you ahead of the curve. Instead of scrambling to figure out your calorie information, you'll be ready to present it to your customers.


If menu items change, you can simply replace the calorie information for that one item, not have to scramble to change the information for everything on the menu.


2. Customers May Expect It


Now that chain restaurants are required to provide the calorie counts on their menus, customers might reasonably come to expect it.


This means that individuals watching their waistline might not want to patronize your location because you don't disclose the calories. Because of this, they can't plan ahead in terms of what meal they'd like to eat. So, instead, they may decide to eat at a restaurant where they can plan ahead.


A restaurant with the calorie counts may be the place they choose to patronize instead.


3. It Helps Cut Down on Obesity


60% of people in the United States are obese or overweight. That's more than a third of the entire country.


As a nation, we're becoming fatter, partially due to the nature of our changing society. We work sedentary jobs while we consume lots of fattening food. Some people don't even realize the number of calories they put in their body each day.


Adding calories to the menu will make people more aware of what they're eating. Not everyone is aware of how many calories they need per day or even what a calorie is. However, putting it on the menu will help them make more informed choices.


Cons of Putting Calorie Counts on Menus


So what could possibly be bad about making this choice? Well, there are a few reasons why customers might not appreciate calorie counts, so let's go over them.


1. Customers May Be Put Off By the Calorie Counts


Thus far, calorie counts on menus haven't seemed to slow down business, but it's possible that it could.


People who aren't interested in the calorie count may decide to stick to your restaurant because they don't actually have to see it. Not reminding them of how much they're eating can prompt people to order dishes as they're not aware of how caloric they are.


This can ensure you sell signature items -- especially items that are desserts or have lots of calories.


2. It Could Be Harmful to Individuals with Eating Disorders


People with eating disorders often track their calories obsessively. And part of learning to recover is learning to stop doing so.


Calorie information on menus and boards can make people with eating disorders have significant anxiety. It can also make them decide not to order items that they might have otherwise enjoyed because they're afraid of the calorie count.


As such, those individuals may decide to choose another restaurant to eat at so that they don't need to constantly be looking at the calories they'll consume.


3. It Takes a Long Time to Calculate the Calories in Your Items


If you make items from scratch, you'll likely have to sit down and calculate how many calories are in each item. It might mean you'll have to put in extra hours or hire someone who can help consult with you and break it down.


Chain restaurants have an advantage in that they're simply given the information from their corporate office. You, on the other hand, don't have that.


Instead, you'll need to do all of the hard work yourself. Inputting them onto a digital menu is the easy part. Calculating the calories is the challenge. 


The FDA, however, has provided a guide for putting calories on menus that you can follow.


Should You or Shouldn't You?


Should your restaurant calorie counts go on the menus or boards?

The answer, is of course, up to you.


But since you know that change will likely require you to do so, it's not a bad idea to start figuring out the calories of items on menus and keeping track of it. That way, you'll be able to effortlessly include them when the time comes that you're required to show the calorie count.


Updating restaurant signs is quick and easy with Digital Signage, OptiSigns helps you to do exactly so.

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