How Your Restaurant Staff Impacts Menu Labeling Compliance

How Your Restaurant Staff Impacts Menu Labeling Compliance

By Anita Jones-Mueller, MPH, President, Healthy Dining and Sara Lucero
September 19, 2016 

The countdown to menu labeling compliance is on and restaurants with 20 or more locations nationwide are preparing. The final deadline of May 5, 2017, has prompted restaurants coast to coast to complete menu nutrition analysis and begin revising menu and menu board layouts for printing, but there is more to the compliance process than that.
The focus may be on nutrition analysis and presenting the required information according to FDA regulations, but have you also considered staff training? Almost every member of your team will play a role in menu labeling compliance. Communication and training are key to providing guests accurate nutrition information and maintaining compliance! From front-of-house servers to back-of-house prep cooks, your team can make all the difference:
Purchasing Staff
Team members responsible for purchasing can affect the accuracy of nutrition information even if they aren’t in the kitchen. Any time a supplier or ingredient changes, the nutrition profile of certain menu items may change and nutrition analysis will need to be revised. Processes should be in place for purchasing staff to notify culinary and marketing teams of any changes in order to update standardized recipes, nutrition analysis, menus, menu boards and marketing materials.
Culinary Staff
The culinary staff plays one of the biggest roles in menu labeling compliance. It is up to every member of the kitchen to understand the importance of standardized recipes and how to prepare them accordingly to maintain the accuracy of nutrition information.
Standardized recipes are highly detailed and accurate and should be in place across locations. These recipes clearly state the exact amount of every ingredient, along with the preparation methods, so that recipes are prepared the same way, every time. They include plating information and portion sizes to assemble the menu items, any additional ingredients that may not be part of the recipe’s ingredient list, such as side dishes, garnishes like a pickle spear or whip cream on a slice of pie and, in some cases, holding procedures for those foods held for long periods of time.

As culinary staff prepares menu items according to these standardized recipes, it’s essential that each step is followed exactly and each ingredient is measured precisely. Measuring out ingredients can also help with cost controls and your bottom line. Even seemingly small alterations in ingredient amounts can change the nutrition drastically. Take salt for example:
One-eighth of a teaspoon of table salt contains 290 milligrams of sodium.
1 teaspoon of salt contains 2,330 milligrams of sodium.
1 tablespoon of salt contains 6,980 milligrams of sodium.
And 1-ounce weight of salt contains 10,990 milligrams of sodium.
Adding a “pinch,” or two, or “salt to taste” will cause the sodium value to vary from the posted nutrition information and from dish to dish.

In addition, any time a standardized recipe is changed, the culinary team will need to be trained on the new recipe and operations, servers and marketing will need to be notified so guests receive correct information. 
Operations and Corporate Staff
The operations team plays a large role in maintaining the accuracy of nutrition information across all locations and teams within the restaurants. From ensuring that recipe and nutrition changes have been communicated to departments and staff is trained on new recipes and procedures to verifying the most current and accurate nutrition information is available for guests and required certification statements are readily available for inspectors.  

Restaurant managers and similar operations staff make sure that all employees are working together to maintain accurate nutrition information at the restaurant.
Marketing Staff
It’s up to the marketing staff to provide accurate information to guests through menus, menu boards, websites and, in some cases, coupons. The marketing staff relies on culinary and operations teams to notify them of any recipe and nutrition changes that will need to be reflected in materials.  
Service Staff
This team is the front line of your restaurant, making the transition to menu labeling compliance seamless for guests. As the face of your brand, the service staff must be ready to answer guests’ questions about recipes and nutrition, provide required nutrition information and direct guests to any additional resources. As such, service staff should be aware of any changes in processes, recipes and nutrition information.

As you can see, each member of your restaurant’s staff plays a key role in delivering accurate nutrition information to guests as required by menu labeling regulations. If you haven’t already, now is the time to create processes and procedures to help maintain the accuracy of that required nutrition information.  

How does your restaurant ensure that ALL of your teams are working together to provide the most up-to-date and accurate information to your guests?