Five years in, pizza chains find ObamaCare menu mandate still half-baked

posted at 6:41 pm on May 28, 2015 by Ed Morrissey

Five years ago, we discovered one of those hidden items in ObamaCare that Nancy Pelosi promised we’d only see after the bill got passed — and she was correct. The bill included a federal mandate for restaurants with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts on menu items, even though research since passage of ObamaCare suggest that calorie counts on menus don’t change consumer behavior at all. It does change the overhead for restaurants and their ability to expand and change their menu offerings, and nowhere is that problem greater than in the pizza industry. Dylan Scott reports for National Journal that the largest chains have finally begun to work on Congress to get rid of the mandate, or at least provide an exception for a sector where almost every purchase is a custom order:

This is Big Pizza’s beef: People order pizza by phone or online. (Liddle pressed this reporter on how he procures his pies. Usually through a mobile app, for the record.) The industry estimates that only 10 percent—and Liddle said it could be even as low as 2 percent—of their customers are actually going to see the calorie information that they put up in stores. Because of that, they didn’t initially expect the FDA to mandate calorie counts on pizza places’ physical menus. But that’s what the final regulation requires.

“Very few people walk into a pizzeria, look up on a menu board and say, ‘Hmm, what will I have?'” Liddle said in an interview. “We don’t want to not do labeling. We do it already. We don’t want to get out of it. We want to do it. We want to do it in a way that makes sense for our consumers, that they can understand, and we want to do it in a way that won’t burden our small-business franchisees.”

Under the FDA rule, Liddle said, the small-business owner of a Domino’s franchise is going to have to spend a couple thousand dollars posting the information and it might not even help those select few customers, anyway. Domino’s has 34 million different pizza combinations; Liddle believes Pizza Hut has tens of millions more. The industry therefore argues that nobody is going to get anything out of the huge calorie ranges that its members are going to have to post on the menus at their stores to cover all the possibilities and comply with the rules.

So the American Pizza Community thinks it has a solution. It supports a bill introduced last month by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the No. 4 Republican in the House, and Democractic Rep. Loretta Sanchez that would revise the ACA’s menu rules. Restaurants where a majority of orders are made off-premises (read: pizza places) could post their calorie information online to comply with the law. That way, the industry argues, customers could get the information where they’re ordering. Domino’s put out a video last week of customers complaining about the regulations to try to build some momentum for the legislation.

That’s a start, but it’s long overdue. Smaller chains have made these appeals for years, far longer than the two years Scott cites with Domino’s. Like most kinds of regulatory burdens, this mandate provides a much larger burden for smaller chains, and so gives the larger chains a competitive advantage. Only in the last couple of years have the biggest chains realized that the burden was so extensive that it outweighs the competitive advantages they get, and now they want Congress to act on the issue.

In 2010, I first reported on the impact the menu mandate had on smaller pizzeria chains, and the ludicrous intrusion into private transactions that had nothing to do with the provision of health care. This was an early sign that progressives would use ObamaCare and its mandates to push their social engineering agenda by tying as much of it as possible to health outcomes. I interviewed Ken Schelper, VP of Twin Cities pizza-sandwich chain Davanni’s, to discuss the impact of the mandate — and how Davanni’s already had a better solution in place for its customers:

Note that Schelper offered the solution in 2010 that the large pizza chains are now pushing — a countertop terminal to calculate the nutritional information for in-store custom orders. Most if not all of them have the calorie counts on their websites. By now, pizza chains could do the same thing with a smartphone app, and perhaps some do. Yet the “food police,” as Domino’s Pizza exec Lynn Liddle calls them, have refused to budge even in this common-sense instance. That’s a measure of how much this is about social engineering and burdening those who produce food of which the elites disapprove, and how much of it really relates to informing consumer choice. After five years, though, the burden will be on those who want to change the status quo rather than defend it … which is exactly what the social engineers wanted in the first place.


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Comments

If you’re counting calories when eating pizza, you’re doing it wrong.

RblDiver on May 28, 2015 at 6:45 PM

The war on pizza continues. When will it end?

Redstone on May 28, 2015 at 6:46 PM

Maybe they can get an exemption by catering a gay wedding.

CurtZHP on May 28, 2015 at 6:46 PM

The bill included a federal mandate for restaurants with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts on menu items, even though research since passage of ObamaCare suggest that calorie counts on menus don’t change consumer behavior at all.

This govt just got so far out of control under this admin. Pelosi, the whole bunch should be thrown in a gulag. And the tards have the nerve to call conservatives fascists. Oh, the irony.

bernzright777 on May 28, 2015 at 6:49 PM

This is the first useful thing Cathy McMorris Rodgers has done in at least eight years.

bw222 on May 28, 2015 at 6:52 PM

I think I’ll order a pizza for dinner. Thanks for the article.

rnb on May 28, 2015 at 6:53 PM

Start telling the government to GFY. It has no authority whatsoever to regulate menus.

ConstantineXI on May 28, 2015 at 7:06 PM

I think I’ll order a pizza for dinner. Thanks for the article.

rnb on May 28, 2015 at 6:53 PM

That pizza does look good…

ConstantineXI on May 28, 2015 at 7:06 PM

They say money can’t buy happiness. Then explain pizza.

John the Libertarian on May 28, 2015 at 7:20 PM

Under the FDA rule, Liddle said, the small-business owner of a Domino’s franchise is going to have to spend a couple thousand dollars posting the information

If the calorie mandate only applies to businesses that serve food, I think Domino’s is in the clear.

The Schaef on May 28, 2015 at 7:23 PM

I think I’ll order a pizza for dinner. Thanks for the article.
rnb on May 28, 2015 at 6:53 PM

That pizza does look good…

Party cut too…..dang looks 3 feet wide.

Must be 1,440 slices.

PIZZA VENDOR: Hey Yogi, you want your PIZZA cut in four slices or eight?

YOGI BERRA: Better make it four. I don’t think I can eat eight.

itsspideyman on May 28, 2015 at 7:25 PM

Please tell me that is a Obama school lunch room photo…pleeeease!

Limerick on May 28, 2015 at 7:31 PM

that is the bigist pizza ever!!!!

cableguy615 on May 28, 2015 at 7:36 PM

That was my 6-year-old daughter she insisted she typed that comment above about the picture personally. LOL :)

cableguy615 on May 28, 2015 at 7:37 PM

This is big restaurants owners (like Darden, YUM, McDonalds) steping on little restaurant owner. Can we say Crony Capitalism!

KenInIL on May 28, 2015 at 8:33 PM

Yes it is too late.
The only way to prevent the election of fools is to make everyone and every company suffer the consequences.
Letting unions and companies with effective lobbyists wriggle off the hook with exemptions only encourages more election of fools.

notalemon on May 28, 2015 at 8:56 PM

Maybe we need a constitutional amendment stating that every federal law or regulation that mandates a person/corporation expend time and/or $$to comply, then every little bit of the cost related to that effort is automatically tax exempt. If the cost is indefinite, ie, the self-employed spending his time, then the fair market value is equal to the prevailing and most advantageous union agreements in the taxpayer’s region. If there is a nearby Union that demands doubletime for working Sundays, or triple time for work on holidays, so be it. The labor rate is determined by what the self-employed earns in a year divided by 1880 hours.

That should put a damper on running amuck with mandates.

AH_C on May 28, 2015 at 9:23 PM

The progressive hate fast food places, especially those that are popular. The progressives believe these places CAUSE obesity. Therefore making the fast food places close because of the minimum wage issues and now the calorie count issues, there will be a lot of closures. This will be recorded as a win for the liberals.

evie1949 on May 28, 2015 at 9:39 PM

Oh it’s all perfectly legal.

geesoy on May 28, 2015 at 9:53 PM

In 2010, I first reported on the impact the menu mandate had on smaller pizzeria chains, and the ludicrous intrusion into private transactions that had nothing to do with the provision of health care. This was an early sign that progressives would use ObamaCare and its mandates to push their social engineering agenda by tying as much of it as possible to health outcomes. …
Yet the “food police,” as Domino’s Pizza exec Lynn Liddle calls them, have refused to budge even in this common-sense instance. That’s a measure of how much this is about social engineering and burdening those who produce food of which the elites disapprove, and how much of it really relates to informing consumer choice. After five years, though, the burden will be on those who want to change the status quo rather than defend it … which is exactly what the social engineers wanted in the first place.

Works for every government regulation, mandate, department, program, and (nearly every) law.

AesopFan on May 28, 2015 at 10:11 PM

Hmm…
I haven’t seen any calorie listings in my local Fried Chicken establishment. I love their chicken, but is it killing me or making me fat…ter?

Hammie on May 28, 2015 at 10:12 PM

Yes it is too late.
The only way to prevent the election of fools is to make everyone and every company suffer the consequences.
Letting unions and companies with effective lobbyists wriggle off the hook with exemptions only encourages more election of fools.

notalemon on May 28, 2015 at 8:56 PM

And it isn’t good when Congress and the Executive Branch let themselves off the hook as well (or ostentatiously put themselves on, then wiggle off in private later).

AesopFan on May 28, 2015 at 10:13 PM

Doesn’t the Commerce clause allows the federal government to regulate pizza menus, especially if your local is called something like “State Line Pizza” or “Tri-State Pizza”? Although the Constitution does not directly mention pizza, a great deal of it went into it’s production and after all it is a living document, as we know.

Come on, trolls, do I have to do all the work? Now is the time for all leftists to come to the aid of the party. Defend the double-foolishness-with-anchovies you brought to the table.

virgo on May 28, 2015 at 10:30 PM

They should take the Obama approach to the mandate. Ignore it.

dogsoldier on May 29, 2015 at 7:37 AM

Note that Schelper offered the solution in 2010 that the large pizza chains are now pushing — a countertop terminal to calculate the nutritional information for in-store custom orders.

Sorry, but this isn’t a solution. It’s putting up a 3′ snow fence to stop the avalanche. The only solution is elimination of this gov’t overreach. If it won’t be done by those we elected to do precisely that, then we no longer have a representative gov’t, and I’m no longer bound by the social compact.

The progressive hate fast food places, especially those that are popular. The progressives believe these places CAUSE obesity.

evie1949 on May 28, 2015 at 9:39 PM

Of course, the exact same food is wonderful if it’s “artisan” and produced in some local shop with “organic” ingredients.

GWB on May 29, 2015 at 9:21 AM

If I want to know how damn many calories are in my take-out, I look it up myself. If I’m eating pizza, I promise you, I don’t wish to know.

CantCureStupid on May 29, 2015 at 10:34 AM

Requiring calorie data on custom pizza orders is insane. It’s like requiring a calorie count on a custom omelet or a custom order in which any possible combination of ingredients is possible.

If I have a menu item in which you could have any combination of say 50 ingredients, what would the possible calorie options be and who would give a rat’s flying potato.

When I go to a restaurant, I don’t look at the calories. I order what the hell I want.

This government is out of control and only the people can change it. However, I’m no longer confident that we have sufficient high information votes to cause any change. I now think we will become a third world cesspool very quickly.

BMF on May 29, 2015 at 3:55 PM