The old discussion of calories in vs calories out seems to be common knowledge among American diners these days. Comments like "It seems to me to be a little obvious that Big Macs make you fat," made by Republican Rep. Vance Dennis of Savannah ring all too true to those who oppose menu labeling laws. The argument of to post or not to post nutrition information and policy is old news. What is ethical in terms of caloric disclosure is now in the hands of local and maybe soon national legislation.
But as more and more restaurants begin to provide this information, their competition and clientele seem to be providing a new motivation to provide nutrition information themselves. New factors above “what’s right” and what’s required are coming into play. In an independent study here in the FoodCalc offices we found that 62% of over 400 restaurants surveyed with 15 or more units provided some or all of their nutrition information on their websites. As more multi-unit restaurants start complying with menu-labeling laws and general concerns about healthy dining increase, consumer demand for nutrition information has also increased.
Think about it; if Sally is dieting and is choosing between a sandwich shop that does provide nutrition information, and a deli across the street that doesn’t have it, which do you think she’ll choose? She may wonder what the non-disclosing deli is hiding, or she might just settle for the peace of mind of simply knowing where she stands in her day’s calorie requirements.
Others may argue that there aren’t enough “Sallys” out there to justify the cost and trouble of getting nutrition information. But times are changing. In a study done by the National Restaurant Association’s 2009 Industry Forecast, researchers found that three in four adults say they are trying to eat healthier now at restaurants then they did two years ago. With increased consumer demand and more sophisticated and affordable methods of performing nutrition analysis come to light, the “Sally” situation may be worth its weight in calories.
--Alyson Mar, RD