Worried the Food and Drug Administration's proposed menu labeling regulations will create issues for your restaurant? Or, worse, that customers will start to demand this information, even though only chains having 20 or more units are required to offer it? Don't worry. It turns out there's an app for that.
We're still in the 60-day public comment period of the menu labeling regulation process, with the final rule set to be published later this summer. You can see a lot of the proposed language for yourself at http://www.fda.gov/Food/LabelingNutrition/ucm248732.htm.
It's hard to see any serious drawbacks for chain operators in the rule, except for the expense of getting accurate caloric content counts for every single menu item and then having their menus redone to display them. But operators having fewer than 20 units may still be affected. What will they do when patrons, newly accustomed to seeing voluminous nutritional information on chain menus, start complaining that smaller chains and independent don't offer the same?
The people who run diet and fitness tracking site DailyBurn think they have an answer: Meal Snap. Presuming either the operator or the customer has an Apple iPhone, he or she can take a picture of a customer's order and upload it to Meal Snap's Foodscanner database. “Within minutes, the app sends an alert directly to the user's phone providing a range of the calories for the meal photographed,” the DailyBurn people say.
No, it's not exactly the same as having a team of dietitians put every single item on your menu through a rigorous nutritional analysis. But we're talking about an app you can download from iTunes for $2.99. As a quick and dirty solution to menu labeling, it's hard to beat this price.
We can see operators submitting pictures of their plated meals to Meal Snap so that they have the information in hand whenever a customer asks about an item's nutritional content. It's not a perfect solution, of course, but we're betting most customers will be happy to get a ballpark estimate instead of a “I don't know” answer to their calorie count questions.