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Customers will drive demand for nutritional labelling on menus

18 February 2011 by
Customers will drive demand for nutritional labelling on menus

Not content with raising the rate of VAT, and sending fuel and alcohol duty sky high, the Government looks set to pose another challenge to the industry in the coming months through a voluntary code asking operators to put more nutritional information on menus.

In light of the news, Caterersearch.com held an impassioned debate on the subject last week (the results of which we reveal in full on page 14).

Operators across all sectors were suspicious of the merits of the proposal and their concerns are legitimate. Chefs at fine-dining establishments balk at the potential restrictions to their creativity, while stand-alone independent operators worry there is little room for the additional investment required.

Thanks to standardised menus that change less frequently, chain operators are in a better position to make the change, but they too are likely to find such a move costly.

In fact, even contract caterers, who have responded to consumer demand by placing healthier options on their menus, do not yet offer calorie counting.

It's clear from the industry feedback that there is not going to be an all-purpose food labelling solution. But it may not be wise for any operator, whatever their business, to simply hope the issue goes away.

In order to avoid mandatory conditions, they may have to show willing - even if it means devoting a section the menu to healthy options in a caterer's B&I site or calorie-labelling at a casual-dining operation.

But if that's not a compelling enough reason, research suggests that there is high consumer demand for a move to calorie counts on menus. And at a time when businesses are fighting for every customer, that's an even harder incentive to ignore.

Janie Stamford, contract caterering editor, Caterer and Hotelkeeper

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