UK restaurants and pubs could be approaching a "tipping point" on the issue of displaying nutritional information - including calorific content - on menus, as it emerged that two-thirds of diners want to be better informed before ordering food.
A new study of 3,000 adults by Fourth Hospitality showed that 67% wanted more information than is currently provided.
Fourth Hospitality said the findings pointed to a "significant shift" in public thinking on the issue of calories, coming as fast-food chain McDonald's added calorific content to its UK menus.
The poll also revealed a growing "information gap" when comparing the weekly household food-shop experience to dining out. Over half of respondents said they regularly checked labels on food sold at supermarkets for nutritional information. And while 62% said they had a good idea of calories in food bought for the home, they had no idea about calorie values when eating out.
Catherine Iredale, communications director from Fourth Hospitality, said: "Restaurant and pub operators have always rightfully taken the approach that any move to put calories on menus should be led not by legislators but by restaurant consumers - their customers.
"However, against the backdrop of the UK's biggest restaurant group pressing ahead with calorie disclosure on its menus, and more than two-thirds of consumers calling for other operators to do the same, we may be approaching something of a tipping point on the issue.
"Perhaps for obvious reasons, there is a gulf between the information available in supermarket aisles versus restaurants, but it would seem that restaurateurs and eating-out groups could risk falling behind their customers on this issue."
Harvey Smyth, chief executive of Gondola, which operates the PizzaExpress restaurants, said: "It's not surprising that the research has produced such mixed responses. For us it's all about giving our customers what they want. If a customer wants calorie information, they should have it, but it doesn't need to be done in an in-your-face way. Our calorie information is readily available for customers in all our restaurants, on our website and downloadable on our app."
But there were some unusual perceptions among consumers as to what types of food constitute healthy. One in five said they thought fish and chips could be healthy, and about 60% believed pizza could be healthy if topped with vegetables.
• Nearly 70% of correspondents think that women are more knowledgeable than men when it comes to nutritional content
• 58% said that if calories, salt content and fats were listed on restaurant menus they would be more likely to switch to low-fat/salt/calorie options if they were offered
• 36% admitted that they are good at watching their weight at home, but find it all goes to pot when eating out
• 54% said that they would be more likely to choose a restaurant that showed calories and nutritional content of its foods over one which didn't
• 83% believed that providing a dish has meat, potatoes and a couple of vegetables, it's a fairly healthy choice to go for in a restaurant
• 46% would rate their knowledge of nutrition and healthy eating as "good" or "very good"
By Neil Gerrard
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