Calorie Count Legislation Transforms Menus Nationwide

The hospitality industry is already acutely aware of the far-reaching effects of the FDA’s 2010 legislation requiring restaurants that are part of a chain of 20 or more locations to list calorie information on their menus. Set to go live on Dec. 1 of this year, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act has already begun to affect restaurant menus around the country, including those found in hotels.

The goal of this new legislation is to help people make informed choices about what they’re eating. However, it may take years before it can be determined it has an effect on consumer health. Joan McGlockton, vice president of industry affairs and food policy for the National Restaurant Association, believes that when consumers become more aware of what they are eating and grow accustomed to seeing calories counts “that’s when we’ll truly be able to see what the impact is.”

In the meantime, the act is already having a measurable effect on restaurant menus. Faced with the reality of listing calorie counts, many chains have focused their efforts on healthier fare. A study done by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published in October 2014 noted that new menu items introduced in chain restaurants in 2013 were formulated with an average of 60 fewer calories than new menu items in 2012.

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Some hotel chains have already begun to post calorie counts. In 2010, Courtyard by Marriott started including calorie information in its lobby bistro menus, reporting to the Wall Street Journal that the posting did not have any impact on sales, and guests had positive feedback.

Most big hospitality brands have been preparing for this legislation for many years, but for smaller brands that did not anticipate being covered under the new law, December is coming up fast. “Now is the time to get up to speed,” McGlockton says.

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Kate Hughes, Editor, LODGING Magazine