Calorie Labeling Tips

The Situation

Starting in 2017, new legislation from the FDA will be enacted with the goal of making nutritional information more readily available for restaurant guests so they can make more informed dietary choices. It may be surprising to many people, but most spend almost half of their food dollars eating out. It’s easy to underestimate calories in foods that are prepared away from home, so these new regulations aim to help guests understand the total calories they’re consuming when enjoying a meal out.


Does It Apply to You?

If you own or operate 20 or more units, you’ll have to comply with the regulations, but even if you’re smaller than that keep in mind guests are looking for transparency when it comes to their dining options. Health sells. Research shows restaurants with more lower calorie servings saw a 10.9% increase in total traffic count and a 10% increase in sales.1

What You’ll Need to Do

The new legislation focuses on calories so you’ll need to make sure that information is displayed clearly and prominently on menus, menu boards, self-service areas and buffet and cafeteria lines.

You’ll also be required to display the following contextual statement on menus or a sign that is visible when guests are ordering standard food items or serving themselves: “The average adult requires approximately 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day; however, individual calorie needs may vary.”

You can find the full set of regulations, exclusions and other guidance here.

How to Get Started

The first step will be to calculate nutritional information for your menu. This process can sound overwhelming, but you can use the resources and data you may already have available. The legislation states that your calorie information must be determined by one of two ways:

  1. Laboratory testing that the owner or operator reasonably believes will provide accurate results
  2. Nutrient analysis method that the owner or operator reasonably believes will provide accurate results

You may also determine calorie information from nutritional information provided in cookbooks or using supplier information if this information was also determined by lab testing or a nutrient analysis method. There is a guide online on how to develop accurate nutrient values for more information.

To help share the load of taking the steps to compliance, work with your distributors to identify accurate ingredients, especially if you’re wanting to create gluten-free or allergen-sensitive dishes.

We know government regulation in your restaurant can feel intrusive, but with the right perspective and execution, you can use the new rules as an opportunity to better serve your customers—and make more money.


1 Hudson Institute, Lower-Calorie Foods It’s Just Good Business, February 2013