The menu-labelling debate has been fodder for conversation for the past five years, but recently the conversation changed — at least in Ontario. It began in earnest last October when Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care announced proposed legislation that required large chain restaurants (with 20 or more locations in Ontario) to post calorie and other nutritional information on menus.
“The Making Healthier Choices Act,” which required that restaurants also display information that educates patrons about their daily caloric requirements, eventually had its second reading, but (in a surprising move for many) it was recently dropped. Now change is happening organically as many restaurant companies are choosing to make more information available to their guests anyway.
McDonald’s, A&W and Subway have already hopped on the transparency train, announcing their participation in the B.C.’s Informed Dining program — whereby restaurant companies give customers access to nutrition information about their menu items — and posting nutritional information on their websites. Online nutritional information makes more sense for the restaurant industry, says Sandra Matheson, president of the Oakville, Ont.-based Food Systems Consulting Inc. “It is important that restaurants have caloric, nutrient and ingredient content information available for customers,” she says. “Having it on their website, however, is more practical, because it is easier to update and more information can be provided to help consumers understand allergen as well as nutrient content.
Often healthier menu options aren’t on the overhead menus, so if more health-conscious consumers look at the website they will see the full selection available. Plus, there is more of an opportunity to engage with customers who have questions or concerns, which doesn’t usually happen at point of service.”