Exclusive: The new federal menu mandate meets the real world
posted at 10:12 am on April 1, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
Yesterday, I spent a little time at a local pizzeria to find out more about the impact of the new federal menu mandate in the real world. Davanni’s has 21 locations throughout the Twin Cities, a smaller, local chain that suddenly must now comply with this federal requirement to publish the caloric content of each of its menu items on all of its printed presentations. However, these restaurants have a problem when they offer their customers a wide range and high number of options — as most pizzerias do. Ken Schelper, a Vice President of Davanni’s, sat down with me yesterday to explain just how costly this new mandate is, and how difficult compliance will be:
This is just a part of the long discussion I had with Ken about the problems faced in this law. We both speculated whether a calorie disclaimer amounted to advertising, and whether restaurants would have to put lawyers on retainers as consumers (and perhaps competitors) drag them into court to substantiate the claims. For that matter, how will restaurants calculate these calorie counts? Can they simply use the numbers from their suppliers to calculate the nutritional data for the end product, or will they have to get lab testing done? As the video notes, every time they have an ingredient change, or even just a supplier, they have to recalculate everything — and then reprint all of their menu boards and literature in every location.
The pressure of this law will eventually force restaurants like Davanni’s to reduce consumer choice as a way of managing the overwhelming burden of maintaining their disclosures. Smaller chains that succeed in satisfying their customers and managing their business used to be rewarded with growth, but this law will put an artificial cap on expansion at 19 locations. That means that fewer people will find jobs, and even in existing stores, money that may have funded more jobs will instead go to reprinting the same menu boards over and over again. And all of this comes because political elites think that people are too stupid to know that a pizza is fattening or how to access information that already exists in much more efficient formats than menu boards.