Your Menu Labeling Timeline

Your Menu Labeling Timeline By Anita Jones-Mueller, MPH, President and Sara Lucero, Director of Content, Healthy Dining
October 24, 2016


If you’re a restaurant with 20 or more U.S. locations, menu labeling compliance is probably moving to the top of your priority list.  With just six months left until the final compliance deadline, you may be running out of time.

Starting May 5, 2017, restaurants with 20 or more U.S. locations will be subject to the long awaited menu labeling regulations requiring calories to be posted on menus and complete nutrition information available to guests upon request. Menu labeling compliance can be a complicated maze to navigate and generally takes time to complete.

Don’t wait. NOW is the time to get started in order to meet with the May 5 deadline. 

Q4 2016: Nutrition Analysis
The most important step in the process, and one that should complete by the end of 2016, if it hasn’t been already, is to finalize your standardized recipes and undertake nutrition analysis of all standard menu items (OR confirm accuracy of existing analysis).  We cannot stress enough that it is not simply the calories that will be required on menus and menu boards but complete nutrient information for each and every menu item covered by menu labeling regulations.

Calculating the nutrient values for restaurant recipes can be a complex process requiring an accurate and detailed recipe and an experienced analyst with food science and dietetics expertise.  It is also just the first step in the process of menu labeling compliance.

Analyzing a menu item requires:

  • Assessing the accuracy and thoroughness of the recipes to ensure that ingredient amounts and yields are precise, preparation methods are included, and all product labels are gathered.
  • Making various calculations to account for the cooking process itself, such as cooking loss, oil absorption, marinade absorption, evaporation, etc.
  • Correcting discrepancies in product information and/or missing values in nutrition databases, such as:
    • Missing sugar values in items that contain fruit, dairy, etc.
    • Other missing data, such as for trans-fat, fiber, or any other nutrient.
    • Missing cholesterol values in menu items that contain meat, cheese, and other animal products.
    • Saturated fat values greater than total fat values.
To allow time to complete the remaining 5 steps in the process and ensure full compliance on schedule, menu nutrition analysis should be completed several months prior to the May 5, 2017, deadline.

Q1 and Q2 2017: Re-Design and Training
In the first several months of 2017, restaurants should be focused on presenting the nutrition information they should have by that point.  In addition, this will be a time to train staff on new processes, procedures and requirements to ensure a smooth transition for guests and maintenance of accurate information.

In the first quarter of 2017, plan on:

  • Re-designing menus and menu boards.
  • Determining how to present the required “additional nutrition information.”
  • Training staff.

In April of 2017, with one month left until the compliance deadline, plan on:

  • Printing new menus and materials.
  • Distributing new materials to locations.

Learn more about each of these steps to comply with menu labeling here.

Healthy Dining’s team of expert dietitians is here to help guide you through the process of menu labeling compliance by answering your questions on the process step by step. See our menu labeling resource page to learn more about verifying your nutrition information, completing the most accurate nutrition analysis, presenting the required information in a way that appeals to guests, training staff and more.

Don’t get left behind. Get started now to meet the May deadline!