CHICAGO -- After years of delays and deliberation, the Food and Drug Administration’s menu-labeling rule is finally the law. It requires chain restaurants and convenience stores that offer foodservice with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts on display boards, as well as on print and digital menus. Retailers at CSP’sC-Store Foodservice Forum in Chicago shared their menu-labeling concerns with Jessica Williams, founder and CEO of Food Forward Thinking LLC.
Here are the foodservice consultant’s suggestions for successfully navigating the regulations ...
1. Write precise recipes
One of the first steps retailers should take to ready themselves for menu labeling is writing detailed corporate recipes that stores can easily follow, Williams said.
“Not 'a can of green beans,' not 'a scoop of cheese,' but what is the weight? How many ounces?” she said. “It will help you communicate at the store level, reduce waste and increase margins.”
2. Get to know SKUs
Understanding all the ingredients coming into stores can be an immense undertaking, Williams said. However, preparing a product specification for each ingredient can help.
“It is really easy to find nutrition information online with apps like MyFitness Pal, but I don’t feel comfortable with that sort of information,” she said. "I want to get the information from the manufacturer. If it’s a Tyson product, I go to Tyson; Johnsonville, I go to Johnsonville.”
3. Check up on it
Creating accurate, accessible resources is just one part of the equation. Retailers also need to verify that employees are using the documentation. Williams suggested visiting stores to make sure they are preparing the items to specification and that the calorie information matches the menu labels, so there’s no miscommunication. Each store should have at least one detail-oriented person who has been trained to make the product according to the published information. If an item is particularly complicated to prepare and could easily veer from the recipe, make nutrition targets easier to hit, she said. Operators should also be adaptable.
“Expect there are going to be changes,” she said. “Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can do once and never look at it again.”
4. Catalog with care
When saving recipes, product specifications and nutrition information, remaining organized is essential. When saving files, insert the store level, name of supplier, product and revision date in the name of the title, Williams said. Saving files into PDFs can prevent team members from accidentally changing the information, she said.
5. Don’t procrastinate
With menu labeling, c-stores are declaring calorie counts and allergens, so they can no longer substitute a different ingredient if they run out of an item. That means having ingredients in stock is more important than ever. Foodservice operators need to complete purchase orders ahead of time; they can no longer get away with quick fixes and replacements, Williams said. To streamline communication, she recommends quarterly ingredient reviews.
“It shouldn’t have to be this huge event you stop everything else for. I think this will become part of your routine,” she said.