17 July

Are we getting too much information about food we order?

Synergy Restaurant Consultants | Blog, Menu Development, Restaurant News
Synergy Restaurant Consultants

Walk into a restaurant these days and you might be able to check the calorie count of your enchilada, the salt content of your fries, the “heart healthy” status of your steak and — in at least one pioneering restaurant— the carbon footprint of your vegetable lasagna.


This is the Information Overload era of the menu as a spreadsheet.

Either by mandate or by choice, more and more restaurants are bombarding diners with calorie counts and loads of other information. The disclosures on menus, menu boards and pamphlets are considered a victory for health advocates who believe informed consumers will somehow make better food choices.

Is it possible to give diners too much information about their food?

A similar nationwide requirement was approved recently as part of health care reform. The Food and Drug Administration has a year to write the rules.

Philadelphia, home of the Philly cheesesteak, goes even further than New York, requiring chain restaurants to list calories on menu boards and additionally, sit-down chains with written menus must also include information on carbohydrates, sodium, saturated fats and trans fats. The narrower federal law will pre-empt local laws, but Philadelphia intends to petition for an exemption.

Maybe the most unique drill-down-deep information is provided by Otarian, a vegetarian restaurant with two locations in Manhattan.

Each item on the menu board is listed alongside its carbon footprint, in kilograms, and the footprint of a similar meat dish. For instance, Otarian figures that 1.38 kilograms of carbon are released to make an order of tacos, compared to 2.43 kilograms for beef tacos. The menu board thus informs taco eaters they have saved the release of 1.05 kilograms of carbon into the atmosphere. (For the record: that’s roughly the same amount of carbon released by driving a car a few miles).

But does any of this make the food healthier? Sadly, probably not.

Blog, Menu Development, Restaurant News