Restaurant Calorie Posting Success Stories Emerge from the 2011 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show

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Positive experiences with menu labeling mark a change in the industry's attitude toward nutrition on menus.

The New York State Restaurant Association-sponsored International Restaurant & Foodservice Show prides itself on being “the only comprehensive event devoted to the Eastern U.S. restaurant, foodservice and hospitality market.” Indeed, the three-day show was widely acclaimed this year, and not just on the east coast.

Among the many exhibitors and speakers this year was a standing-room-only presentation given by Alyson Mar, RD, who shared some surprising stories from restaurant operators who have found that calorie disclosure has benefitted their business.

Attendees were stunned at some of the statistics she recounted during the education session. Some of the highlights include:

  •     In a 2010 study by Ohio State University, high calorie item sales decreased, while low calorie item sales increased, with the lowest-calorie menu item increasing in sales by 50%.
  •     Café and bakery chain Le Pain Quotidien found that after menu labeling was implemented at a New York location, sales of their smoked salmon tartine (350 calories) overtook the sales of their open-faced chicken and mozzarella sandwich (690 calories). The price difference between the two menu items was nearly $4 more for the tartine.
  •     New York-based restaurant chain Energy Kitchen offers no menu item over 500 calories. Sales were up over 25% from 2010 compared to the previous year. The controlled-calorie concept is a hit with diners, with numerous testimonials shared from the company website as well as praise on the consumer rating website Yelp.
  •     Frozen yogurt giant Red Mango uses nutrition information as a centerpiece in their marketing to gain an edge over their competitors. Famous among patrons for their 90-calorie cups, the chain is now the fastest-growing retailer of frozen yogurt and smoothies.
  •     A study conducted by Usable Health, makers of the restaurant-ordering terminal Smart Menu, found that 61% of customers at Asia café Tin Drum were more likely to return after using a POS that supplied nutrition information.

Unexpectedly, even audience members supplemented the compelling stories shared after the session. An unidentified restaurant owner, who serves “southern comfort” style cuisine, recounted how she was discouraged from posting nutrition information and shocked everyone when she saw an increase in sales and traffic over a period of a few months.

Mar is expected to reveal more stories of calorie posting success this spring at various industry trade shows across the country. Follow Alyson’s scheduled speaking events on the FoodCALC facebook page.

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Lara Baldwin
FoodCALC
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