For Restaurants New Menu Labeling Requirements Present Costs and Opportunities

Menu Labeling at RestaurantsA good percentage of space appearing on packaged food products sold in retail stores is there due to government regulation. The most obvious are the lists of ingredients and other nutrition information. Recently, the Affordable Care Act extended the food labeling requirement beyond food packaging and will now apply to food service, specifically food sold in restaurants. While technically restaurants are legally required to include nutrition information for the food they sell, the federal government has yet to enforce the law and, as expect, few restaurants are actually offering the information.

Some states, though, have their own requirements. For instance, as discussed in this Los Angeles Times story, California has a law requiring restaurants place nutritional information on their menus. That law has been in effect for five years. But most restaurants are also ignoring this as they wait to see what happens with the federal law. The state of California is also not taking it very serious as there appears to be some question as to whether the law is still even on the books.

No matter what happens, if labeling laws are ultimately enforced, restaurants may experience a sizable expense for redesigning menus to include the information. And, for some chains with very large menus, the additional requirements could lead to higher printing costs as the information could result in menus having more pages.

While marketers do face increased cost, they may also see opportunity in redesigning menus to more effectively communicate their offerings to customer. The cost of designing and producing new print menus also may be enough to push some restaurants to abandon print and instead introduce digital menus that are presented within a tablet computer.

Image by Slyvar