What is the new legislation and why has it come about?
The new law requires hospitality businesses to display the calorie count of their food and comes into force on 6 April this year.
The new legislation forms part of a public health drive directive targeting restaurants and takeaway meals, which are generally considered to have more calories than equivalent retailer own-brands or manufacturer-branded products. The jury remains out on that one and arguably, the timing of this enactment, on the back of the pandemic and all the upheaval it’s caused for hospitality businesses, is not the best.
But Public Health minister Jo Churchill says the rules will “make it as easy as possible for people to make healthier food choices” so it perhaps presents some businesses with an incentive to look at their menus and see where dishes can be adjusted to improve nutritional value. This, coupled with the recently enacted Natasha’s Law, gives more control to your customers to make informed decisions on their ordering without the need for additional staff involvement which, in the current climate of staff shortages, can only be a good thing.
Who does it apply to?
This is an English Government enacted law and therefore only applies to the ‘out of home’ sector i.e. restaurants, cafes, bakeries and takeaways in England. It is aimed at larger hospitality businesses and so only applies to those with more than 250 employees including caterers and food delivery companies too.
What does it require?
The new Calorie Labelling Regulations require calorie information to be displayed at the point where a customer chooses what food to purchase, such as on menus and on labels next to food that is on display. The regulations do not require calorie information to be displayed on advertising and promotional materials, for example, TV adverts, billboards, and promotional posters.
Those businesses that fall into the above category must:
- display the energy content of the food in kilocalories (kcal) clearly and prominently*.
- reference the size of the portion to which the calorie information relates.
- display the statement that “adults need around 2000 kcal a day” on each page of the menu’.
*These calories need to be displayed at all available areas where the customer chooses what food to buy such as on a menu or display case on the premises, and an online menu. For further specifics on this please refer to the government’s official guidance.
What about non-menu items?
– Anywhere offering a buffet service will have to label each food at the point of choice, for example at a breakfast buffet each component will have an individual label i.e. 1 rasher of bacon = 50 calories.
– Prepacked food for direct sale (PPDS) prepared on-site will also need a calorie label either on its packaging or at the point of choice.
– Items displayed on a hot counter packed at the customer’s request (A sausage roll put in packaging after the customer has chosen).
– Exemptions include specials and condiments, loose fruit and vegetables and items which typically require further preparation (uncooked meats and fish).
Delivery/Click and collect
Where food is ordered off-site i.e. by phone or online (including third-party aggregator ordering apps), calorie information for each item must be made available to the customer both when the food is ordered and when it is delivered.
How should we tackle it?
If you have integrated stock control and/or kitchen management software with your EPoS like Fourth or Kitchen Cut then you can easily output the calories per dish based on your input recipes which are all calibrated on calories per weight in grams.
And thanks to the menu engineering elements of this software, any adjustments to recipes can then be pushed out to your digital customer-facing menus automatically ensuring that they are as accurate and up-to-date as possible.
This remains no small task and certainly the reason why it only applies to large businesses with over 250 employees currently. Areas to consider include:
- Data sharing
If you use third-party delivery partners, you will need to share all calorie information with them as the point of order and put processes in place to ensure this is a regular and ongoing arrangement as you update your menus.
Is your current recipe data correct and how will you manage the ongoing maintenance of the recipe data? This is where using specialist third-party software such as Fourth or Kitchen Cut is essential as they make storage, ongoing maintenance and output easy and accurate.
As well as the initial task of publishing calorie information on menu dishes, the ongoing maintenance must be considered.
How will you present the calories on your menus so it draws enough attention without putting customers off or giving them information overload?
A great example of a multi-site hospitality business that has been adding the calories content of their dishes since 2012 is the Wetherspoons pub chain. They were also the first pub chain to publish the calorie count on their drinks in 2017 and so have a great deal of experience in presentation. In the casual dining sector, The Real Greek were the first to print the calorie count against their dishes in 2010 when they were part of an early government pilot scheme to promote healthy eating.
Do you have a system for printing new labels and updates on PPDS packaging easily on-site where necessary? Can your kitchen printers handle this as part of your EPoS ecosystem?
What about any POS or menu boards? As dishes and subsequent ingredient quantities and portion sizes are liable to change, what processes do you need to implement estate-wide to accommodate this?
Thankfully any digital menus can be updated in real-time whenever you make changes to your recipes, thus avoiding versioning issues associated with printed menus and allergen lists.