Menus to include calorie counts in US

Menus around the US are getting a makeover to comply with the new health care bill, which requires all restaurants, with 20 or more locations, to include calorie counts on menus, menu boards and drive-thrus. The rule will also apply to vending machines carrying convenience foods.

According to Mintel’s latest research, more than 60% of restaurant-goers think restaurants should post nutritional information on menus, and two in five (44%) think federal or local governments should facilitate such actions.

“Menu transparency will allow consumers to have control over their food decisions with a complete understanding of what they’re eating,” said Eric Giandelone, director of food service research at Mintel.

“However, getting people to eat healthier requires more than just posting calories or adding healthy options to the menu…the food also has to taste good.”

When going out for dinner, nearly 60% of survey respondents say they want something that tastes great and 23% claim to want to eat a healthy meal. Only 14% of diners say they are never interested in ordering a healthy restaurant meal. This insight shows restaurant patrons are attracted to healthy meals, as long as they’re full of flavour.

Nearly half of survey respondents report eating healthier in restaurants in the past year and people have different methods for doing so. Reducing fat (67%) leads the way in strategies for adopting healthier eating habits at restaurants, followed by eating more fruits and vegetables (52%).

Meanwhile, 49% of patrons are cutting calories by simply ordering less food.

“From a restaurant’s perspective, there is a concern that healthy menu items may not sell, but there is also a danger to having a calorie-laden menu when the calorie count law starts taking effect,” said Giandelone. “There may be some initial consumer shock at the calorie counts and chains may have to start listing lower-calorie options or smaller portion sizes to help diffuse this unpleasant surprise.”