Friday, May 5 will bring BIG changes to restaurant menus. After several delays, the FDA will roll out new regulations requiring restaurants with 20 or more locations to disclose caloric and nutritional information for all menu items, as well as food served in buffets and salad bars.
What does this mean? Consumers across the country will be able to view nutritional information for more than 200,000 restaurants and make more informed choices based upon their dietary needs.
To meet the requirement as a restaurant owner, this means working with a nutrition expert to obtain accurate nutritional information for all menu items. After reviewing those results, which may be unexpected, restaurants should prepare for any potential backlash by consumers and/or media.
After receiving the nutritional information for your restaurant’s menu, it is important to review it with a critical eye. Are there any potential problems? Perhaps the “heart healthy” menu item isn’t quite so “heart healthy” or low in calories? Prepare a strategy to handle such criticisms in advance, just in case the restaurant comes under fire from a food writer.
Prepare good news story ideas, such as new healthy menu items or lite substitution options, in advance of the nutritional labeling roll out so that your brand can get in front of any potential issues. Distributing positive content in advance of potential negative news will position the brand as proactive.
Once you’ve identified potential issues, prepare talking points and a messaging platform to help your brand (and your managers) be better prepared to answer tough questions from consumers or reporters.
While it’s important to prepare your strategy and messaging, don’t forget to review and update your online presence as well. Be sure to monitor your social media networks for comments/questions from customers, and use your best judgement when it comes to responding. Also use your “good news” stories for social media content so that they are reaching consumers across all platforms.
Identify a spokesperson for your brand in advance, and make sure he or she is familiar with the talking points and messaging platform. This person will be the face of your brand, so choose someone who is not only knowledgeable of the key messaging points, but also comfortable with the media.
Training your front-of-house staff is a critical step to implementing the new menu regulations. All staff should be prepared to answer any and all questions regarding the menu nutritional information, portion sizes, etc.
By spending time properly preparing for the nutritional labeling rollout next month, restaurants can meet the requirements of the FDA and satisfy their customers’ hunger for nutritional information.
What are your thoughts on nutritional labeling? Do you think it will have an impact on what you order at your favorite restaurants? Tweet us at @DEVENEYnola using the #DEVchat hashtag.