Menu Madness

This Foodie Friday I want to talk about labels. It might sound as if we’re creeping dangerously close to politics in this post but my intent is to maintain a business perspective so please don’t get confused.

I started my business career working for a TV trade group, the Television Bureau of Advertising (TvB). I know that one of the great functions any trade group has is to help the membership with best practices as well as with advocacy. That’s why I’m a little confused about something that took place over the last couple of months. While there aren’t any overt fingerprints from a trade group on it, I’d be shocked if one or more of them wasn’t working behind the scenes.

You can read about this in detail here, but there is a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires chain restaurants to:

  • Disclose, on menus and menu boards, the number of calories in an item as it is usually prepared and offered for sale;
  • Provide written nutrition information and nutrition claim information to consumers upon request;
  • Provide a “prominent, clear, and conspicuous statement” on menus and menu boards about the availability of the written nutrition information; and
  • Provide, on a sign adjacent to each food item, the number of calories in the item or per serving for self-service items and food on display.

Pretty consumer friendly in my opinion. After all, how can transparency and giving customers information about what they’re considering eating be a bad thing? Nevertheless, Congress passed a law as part of a spending bill to prohibit the FDA from using any funds to implement, administer, or enforce the final rule. Do any of you think your favorite Congress-critter woke up one morning and decided to do this on their own? Probably not. I’d guess one or more restaurant trade groups lobbied for this (and probably made a few donations along the way).

Yes, I get that it makes the restaurant chains involved incur expense. But it’s meant to improve consumer health and not to make the business’ lives easier. It reminds me of the papers pushed by the ANA with respect to ad blocking. Those were more about how to preserve ad opportunities and revenues than about fixing the problem that causes ad blocking in the first place.  Putting profits ahead of people – both those that buy from you and those that work for you – rarely is a good idea, at least in my book.  Yours?

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