Take a deep breath. It’s May 5, 2017 and your menu labels are compliant with FDA menu labeling laws. You’re done!
But wait, suddenly you get that feeling – you know, that feeling that you’ve forgotten something…
Restaurant menu labeling is an ongoing process. After you initially post your nutrition information online and calories on the menu board, your work is not finished. But, we have good news! Menu maintenance doesn’t need to be a painful process for restaurants or food service establishments. To make menu maintenance easier, create a system that includes continuous monitoring and updating of your menu.
Mérieux NutriSciences recommends the following two steps to maintain your restaurant menu labeling program:
1. Develop a sustainable plan
Restaurants and food service establishments need someone accountable for menu labeling maintenance. Appoint one of your team members to this position. This individual will create a process for menu labeling moving forward, and keep up with changing label regulations.
Items to address in your plan:
- Recipe or ingredient changes: Nutrition information needs to be updated if there is a change in serving size, ingredient(s), or cooking process.
- New menu items: Plan accordingly for the amount of time needed for nutrition analysis by database or lab analysis. Also, keep in mind printing time for the new menu.
- Regular validation of menu items’ nutritional info: Update any menu item with nutritionals analyzed through lab analysis annually. Food items sent through calculated analysis also need to be validated in the same timely manner. If an ingredient or supplier has changed, then the recipe needs be analyzed immediately.
- Timeline for menu review: Develop a timeline of when you will validate menu items. To do so, decide if the entire menu will be updated at once, or if nutrition analysis will be completed in sections. Also, consider your budget and allow time for new menus to be printed.
2. Continuous Monitoring
Is your staff serving the correct serving sizes? Do they know how to answer dietary questions?
Prioritize continued education and training for onsite employees, especially in measuring precise serving sizes. Your customers expect the serving sizes to match the nutrition information on your menu. Ensure staff members know how to answer inquiries surrounding nutrition information or allergens on the menu. Staff should also know who the company contact is in case they have questions or a customer needs a higher-level authoritarian.
Try not to forget that menu labeling is only half the battle; maintenance is the other portion. Because your nutrition information is available to customers, the pressure is on to keep it updated. Now that the government is taking an active interest in the food industry and consumer health, continual updates to regulations and requirements will be likely.
Set up a monitoring system for your suppliers. Audit your suppliers’ labels to verify that they match the nutrition information used to create your menu labels. Sometimes, suppliers change the ingredients given to you or the formulation of their ingredients without notifying you. It is ultimately your responsibility to be aware of these changes, and to update your menu labels accordingly.
Do you need assistance getting your menu maintenance plan in place? Contact our Regulatory Compliance Specialists for more information on menu maintenance. Using Mérieux NutriSciences to complete your initial menu labeling will make menu maintenance easier for you. Because all of your recipes, sub recipes and proprietary ingredients will already be in our nutrition database, making future modifications to recipes will be a painless process. Look out for our upcoming video blog on this topic for more tips on restaurant menu labeling maintenance!
Meet the Author
Sophie Lauer, RD
Associate Nutrition Program Manager, Mérieux NutriSciences
Sophie Lauer is the Associate Nutrition Program Manager at Mérieux NutriSciences. She received her Bachelor of Sciences in Applied Health Science, Dietetics from Indiana University. Sophie received her MBA from Dominican University. In her free time, she enjoys cooking for friends and family as well as playing with her goldendoodle.