Anyone who’s followed the FDA Menu Labeling Requirements since 2014 is aware of the numerous complications and considerations involved in getting these new requirements into effect. After a couple of “false alarms” it might be easy to sit back and wait a little longer – personally, I think the third time’s the charm, so let’s look at the implications this will have on your operations, specifically your menu boards, with enforcement set to go into effect on May 5th, 2017.
Are you prepared?
Several restaurants, including many of the larger chains, have already moved towards compliance, some more efficiently than others. However, most restaurant operators are still finalizing their strategy and timelines for compliance. They are also working through the biggest issue the Menu Labeling Law presents: effectively complying with the guidelines, while not losing sight of the true purpose of your menus—effectively marketing your food & drink offerings to your customers.
Your restaurant menus have multiple purposes, not the least of which are helping market your brand and your food. They are vital to enhancing customer experience. Whether you use printed menu boards, digital menu boards, or some combination, there is the logistical challenge of adding in all the extra information about calories and still meeting the rest of your goals.
So what next?
Well, you’re probably going to have to take a few stabs at getting it right. If your menu is already pretty full of alluring food shots, or with a great descriptive list of each of your menu items, adding in a caloric description which could take up 7-18 characters for EVERY menu item, is going to add many letters, numbers and words to your menus. With the FDA’s requirements around keeping the caloric information easily readable (in line with the font type, font size, and color of the product name or product price) we have a challenge on our hands to keep your menu from looking like a page from the Wall Street Journal.
Like any other challenge, this one also has a deadline. The clock is ticking to get moving: whether designing new menus and sending them to the printer or uploading the menu changes to your Digital Menu Boards, you have a quickly fleeting amount of time to get your design right, ensure compliance, and still have an effective menu for communicating your food and your brand.
It’ll be critical to making sure you have the required caloric information on each of your menu items and get some guidance on making sure you know how to comply. Finally, start the design process NOW. Whether you do your menu design in-house, partner with a creative firm or use your digital menu board partner, look at your menu critically (both from a sales performance perspective and a design perspective). What works? What doesn’t?
Based on your review, and your knowledge, work to design a menu that highlights your best performers, communicates your desired brand experience, and lists the required nutritional information. It may mean some significant design changes, but it also presents some great opportunities.
From what it looks like, this time’s for real!