Calorie counts on menus: should you put them on?

Are you going to put calorie counts on your food menu? Should you? We look at the pros and cons.

Earlier this year, the government announced plans for large restaurants, cafés and takeaways to add calorie counts to their menus as part of a new obesity strategy. As a smaller business, you won’t have to do this, but should you? We look at the pros and cons to help you decide.

Only businesses with 250+ employees will have to update their menus when the law comes in. However, the government states: “We will also encourage smaller businesses to voluntarily provide calorie information and will consider extending the requirement to include them in the future.” So, it could be coming your way at some point.

At the moment, these plans are for food only and the timeline for the new law is still to be confirmed. The government has indicated it’s considering rolling out the law to alcohol in the future as well. Keep your eyes peeled for more on that soon.

The pros

Opens you up to new customers

There is a growing number of customers who are looking to be more health conscious when eating out. By embracing the calorie counts on menus, you could widen your appeal to potential new audiences. Eight in 10 millennials say it is important to them to eat healthily.*

Do your bit for a healthier UK

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the health vulnerable in our society. Those who have type 2 diabetes, heart disease or are obese are thought to be more at risk of having a serious case of the virus. By adding calorie counts to your menu, you can help those people who find it difficult to lose weight to make healthier decisions when eating out.

Group of people

Encourages you to have healthy food on the menu

Listing your meals’ calories might show you that it’s time to add some healthier options. Government research suggests “people consume around 200 more calories a day if they eat out compared to food prepared at home.” Are there ways you can make small changes to your dishes to reduce the calories? Healthier food = more choice for your customers.

Salmon and vegetables

The cons

It would be time-consuming

Working out the calorie counts on your dishes is no easy feat, especially if you have a large menu. There are online tools to help with the calculations, but it will take up valuable time. If you have a menu that remains the same for most of the year, then this would be a one-off job but if you’re regularly changing it, then it could be a significant task for someone in your organisation.

The expense

Menus will need to be reprinted to add in calorie information. Consider how often you update your current menu – could the calorie additions be added in as part of a planned update?

Less flexibility

Do you often tweak your recipes? Maybe adding in a little something extra or altering the quantities slightly? This could be tricky if you start stating your calorie counts as they’ll need to be consistent.

Isn’t eating out about treating yourself?

Lots of experts suggest eating well 80% of the time and having what you like the other 20%. Isn’t that 20% all about indulging when eating out? Will adding calories to menus give customers a big guilt trip if they pick that 1,000-calorie burger? The psychological impact of seeing those digits next to a favourite food needs to be considered.

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