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Welltech Bistro Blog

June 24, 2009

Marion Nestle Weighs in on Restaurant Nutrition and Obesity

Filed under: general news, labeling — Dina @ 11:08 am

April 16, 2009

Welltech Bistro Featured in QSR Magazine

Filed under: general news, labeling, software — Dina @ 12:53 pm

qsrlogoPlease visit the QSR Web site to read the article, “Software Helps Stores Comply with Menu Labeling“.

“With menu-labeling legislation rising on town council agendas across the country, dozens of companies are popping up to help operators comply with the new rules. One such company is WellTech Bistro…” click to read more.

As the article states, no matter the details of the legislation, having trusted web-based software is an excellent strategy for keep the information current, accurate, and accessible at all times.

April 10, 2009

Why are localities quashing menu labeling legislation?

Filed under: labeling — Dina @ 1:21 pm

First there was California. Then New York City. Then Seattle, Philly, and other regions followed suit. Some celebrated; others grieved. Over the past few weeks, we have learned that West Virginia, Brookline, Mass, and other areas are not in favor of local menu labeling laws. Maybe it’s because they’re holding out for a national law that’s not only standardized coast to coast, but a little easier on restaurants’ wallets than the ones proposed locally.

The labeling laws that have passed so far requires restaurants to disclose calorie information in plain sight of the customers. Having to post calorie information at point of purchase is no small effort. It requires accurate nutrition analysis, updating menu boards (which, by the way, is a lot easier if you go digital), possibly revisiting and revising recipes (and re-analyzing for nutritional value), printing, possibly reorganizing the purchase area, and possibly re-printing menus. All of this is expensive.

But research has shown that calorie disclosure significantly impacts health outcomes. One study extrapolated its results to state that if diners consumed 600 more calories than they realized for just one restaurant meal per week, an extra 30,000 calories a year would be added to their diets. These unaccounted calories could cause a weight gain of approximately nine pounds annually, holding all other factors constant. (ref: Burton S, Creyer EH, Kees J, Huggins K. Attacking the obesity epidemic: the potential health benefits of providing nutrition information in restaurants. Am J Public Health. 2006; 96:1669-1675.)

No one wants to feel responsible for the obesity epidemic; restaurateurs DO care about public health. This is why restaurants favor the LEAN act over the local legislation. (The NRA supports the LEAN Act as well.) There are many differences between the two, a most notable one being this: NYC and Cali have to post the calories in plain sight, near or on the menu / menu board itself. The LEAN act, a federal ruling, would mandate that restaurants with 20 or more stores nationwide provide nutrition information upon request — not necessarily posting the info in plain sight. In addition, having one standard, consistent ruling for ALL affected restaurants will be a lot easier and affordable than having to follow different legislation (especially for restaurants with stores in different areas).

There are groups and individuals who argue that in-plain-sight posting (which was originally detailed in the MEAL act, and was rejected) is the only effective way to make a public health impact; others feel that disclosure upon request is the responsibility of the restaurant, but the choice is up to the consumer. What do you think?

For more information about the different laws/acts, visit Welltech Bistro’s Menu Labeling Starter Kit page.

April 9, 2009

Does menu labeling really make a difference?

Filed under: general news, labeling — Dina @ 3:55 pm

Some say labeling makes a difference, some say no. It depends on many things: who you ask, what types of restaurants, what location of the country, and how a study is conducted.

You might have read a recent study claiming that just about no one who is anyone pays a mind to nutrition information posted in fast food restaurants. This study, out of Yale University and published in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health, counted the number of customers who read nutrition information at a few select locations (McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks and Au Bon Pain) in both urban and suburban settings. Of the 4000+ patrons, only six (0.1) looked at it before buying (others looked after buying, but they looked!). This might be used as an argument either for or against menu labeling. For: “We need to make the information more prominent.” Against: “Why bother? No one cares.” I have other questions/observations about this:

1. Patrons at these restaurants are, more likely than not, repeat customers with a pre-conceived idea of what they want. Most people enter a McDonald’s or Starbucks knowing what they want already; they’re not going to scour a menu or nutrition information.

2. People might feel self-conscious viewing the nutrition information on a pamphlet or wall chart.

3. Maybe folks already are aware of the nutrition information, from previous visits, looking at the restaurant’s web site.

4. Most people who frequent these types of quickserve restaurants are not there for a healthy meal; if they were interested in health food for that meal, they might prefer to go to a restaurant that caters to those needs.

Wouldn’t this study’s results be a lot different if researchers parked themselves at a new health-oriented quickserve or fast-casual restaurant, where folks weren’t already aware of what was on the menu?

On the other hand, a study came out this week, “People Will Make Healthier Choices If Restaurants Provide Nutritional Data, Study Finds.” In this study, whose design is completely different than the first, the researchers evaluated whether providing calorie and nutrient information after the patrons ate the food changed their subsequent food choices. They found that, indeed, providing this information changed people’s future selections. This was especially true when a person ordering an item labeled “low calorie” had more calories than they expected.

The literature abounds with different approaches to research and different conclusions that either support or deny the backing of menu labeling laws. For many, the bottom line is disclosure: no one has to change their behavior, but if they want to, they should have the facts available to them to make informed decisions.