Restaurant Menu Nutrition Labeling

FDA Compliant Restaurant Menu Labels

In 2018, the FDA began to require restaurant chains, franchises, and other establishments that have 20 or more locations and that sell restaurant-type foods to provide nutritional information to their customers. Since “restaurant-type foods” includes any food expected to be eaten on-location or soon afterwards, these regulations also apply to many other types of establishments, including concession stands, pizza delivery services, and those selling drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).

To comply with these requirements, establishments must clearly provide nutrition and calorie information on their menus or menu boards for each regular food and beverage item on the menu. They must also have easy access to additional nutritional information for each menu item, and clearly state that this information is available at the customer’s request.

If your restaurant does not fall into the “20 or more locations” bucket, consumers are demanding nutrition facts about the foods they are eating at a growing rate.  In fact, according to the National Restaurant Association, the following trends are shaping how restaurant owners face nutrition analysis:

Nutrition and sustainability will drive menus.

Sustainable sourcing and transparency will continue to grow in focus for consumers over the next decade. In order to remain competitive, restaurants will need to adapt to evolving dietary restrictions and consumer preferences. Food trends and menus will naturally evolve to reflect the increasingly health-conscious, ecological mindset of the consumer. Areas to watch include:

  • Single-use restaurant packaging, including in delivery, will evolve.
  • Artificial intelligence with knowledge of cooking techniques, food chemistry, recipes, and alcohol could produce unexpected new culinary and beverage experiences.
  • Advanced genetic knowledge and the rising incidence of lifestyle diseases are likely to create growing demand for meals that provide specific health benefits to diners.”

Source:  National Restaurant Association, in partnership with American Express and Nestlé Professional 10-year outlook report on the projected state of the restaurant industry in 2030.

Full report:  Association Unveils Restaurant Industry 2030 Report | National Restaurant Association

RL Food Testing Laboratory can help you comply with these requirements and make the nutrition information available quickly, easily, accurately, and affordably. We will assist you in generating calorie counts and additional nutritional information for menu labeling, perform any laboratory testing required for your recipes, and provide you with a report containing all restaurant menu nutritional information required by the FDA.

To make the process as affordable as possible, we can help you determine which of your recipes will require laboratory testing and which ones can quickly be processed using our database software.  Here is how to get your menu nutrition analysis done:

  1. Review your menu items
  2. Prepare your recipes for each item – use the RL Food Testing Laboratory recipe template to get started.
  3. Call us for assistance – we are happy to help!

RL Food Testing Laboratory is your one-stop-shop for Restaurant Menu Labeling compliance!

Fill out and submit the form for a FREE Restaurant Menu Nutrition Consultation, and an RL Food Testing expert will contact you in 24-48 hours to begin the process with you!

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*RL Food Testing Laboratory Label Technicians hold Masters Degrees in Food Science and Registered Dieticians. We offer consulting services beyond nutrition evaluation.

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More Info on Restaurant Menus

Do the FDA’s Restaurant Menu Nutrition Labeling Requirements Apply to Me?

The restaurant labeling regulations apply to food chains that:

  1. Have 20 or more locations
  2. Sell “restaurant type food”, that is, food that is consumed in the establishment or shortly after purchase. Some examples are:
    • Restaurants and fast-casual eateries
    • Grocery stores that sell foods in a deli or food court setting, like soups, sandwiches, or hot dogs (Is this called “Grab ‘n Go”)
    • Businesses that sell their own food as a delivery service, like pizza delivery
    • Bakeries, coffee shops
    • Convenience stores that prepare ready-to-eat food, such as hot dogs, sandwiches, burritos, etc.
    • Entertainment venues that prepare ready-to-eat food, like movie theaters, bowling alleys, amusement parks, etc.
    • Workplace or university cafeterias (however, school cafeterias using USDA programs are exempt)

If your business meets both of these criteria, then you will need to provide the menu nutrition labeling required by the FDA. There are a few exemptions, which you can find in the FDA’s guidance (https://www.fda.gov/node/361883/).

However, even if a chain isn’t required by law to provide menu nutrition information, it’s also perfectly fine, and perhaps advantageous in attracting consumers, for that chain to register with the FDA to display this information voluntarily

What Information Do I Need to Put on My Menu?

There are four basic elements in the restaurant labeling information that you will need to provide:

  • An informational statement about the 2,000 calorie daily guideline
  • Calorie counts for any regular menu item (i.e., not seasonal or limited-time items) Are daily specials exempt here too?
  • A statement of availability of additional nutrition information
  • Additional nutritional information for regular menu items

You will need to display the first three of these elements on your menu or menu board, while the fourth only needs to be available on-site if a customer asks to see the additional information.

The statements about the 2,000 calorie guideline and availability of additional information are relatively straightforward. They must be displayed on your menu or menu board in a way that is easy to read (for example, print that is large enough to read easily). The FDA even spells out the exact wording you will need to use: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary” and “additional nutrition information available upon request.”

You will also need to list the calorie count for each food or beverage on the menu. The calorie count should be an accurate value for the calories in that menu item, or, in the case of build-your-own type menus (for example, a sandwich shop where different types of bread, cheese, meat, etc. are chosen by the customer), the calorie count for each ingredient the customer chooses to add to their meal. If one menu item varies in calories because of different flavor or size options, the calorie amounts can be listed separated by a “/” (if there are only two options) or a “-” to show a range (if there are three or more options). For example, you could list “Milkshake (vanilla or chocolate) 150/175 Cal.” or “Milkshake (vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry) 150-180 Cal.”

Not all businesses serving restaurant-style foods as defined by the FDA, however, have a traditional menu or menu board. The FDA has given guidance on some of these types of situations. For example, if your business provides restaurant style food in a self-service style (e.g., a buffet), the calorie amount for each food must be listed near each food. Since your customers can take as much as they want in a self-service setting, you will also need to list the serving size that your calorie count is based on (e.g., “1/2 cup” or “1 slice”). On the other hand, if the food is presented in a display case that customers grab food from, you can have a list of every item with its calorie count on the front of the display case. For individually packaged items (grab-n-go style), the calories can be listed on the item itself.

Lastly, you will need to have additional nutritional information on hand for each regular item, in case customers request this information. The values that you will need for each food or beverage are:

  • Total calories
  • Total fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Trans fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium
  • Total Carbohydrate
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Sugars
  • Protein

How Do I Find the Additional Nutritional Information?

Since the FDA can request that you back up the information you are providing and show that it is valid, it’s important to make sure that you are using trustworthy information for your restaurant labeling. Here are a few ways to find the calorie count and additional nutrition information for your menu items:

  1. Calculate the values using a credible nutrient database
  2. Cookbooks (if nutrient information is provided by the cookbook from which you got your recipe)
  3. Laboratory analysis, such as those provided by an FDA-certified food testing lab
  4. The Nutrition Facts Label, which is printed on most packaged foods

The FDA is somewhat flexible in how you find this information and allows you to use these or other reasonable methods, as long as the information is accurate.

At RL Food Testing Laboratory, we can help you get your business ready to meet these Menu Nutrition requirements and make sure your restaurant food labels are compliant. We’ll start by reviewing your menu with you to find the quickest, most affordable method that is best for your menu, and then determine your menu items’ nutritional values through either database or laboratory analysis of your food or beverage products. We’re here to help, and look forward to helping you provide the nutrition information your customers are looking for!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to your questions on restaurant menu nutrition

If my menu has several items that are very similar – such as pizzas with the same crust but different toppings – is there a discount?

Every menu and menu board is unique, and pricing is based on a combination of factors. To review the individual items on your menu and get a personalized quote, contact us for a free consultation.

Do all states require restaurants to provide menu nutrition information to the public?

The FDA ruling requiring restaurants to provide nutrition information for menu items is a Federally mandated law – therefore, it applies in all states. However, you should still check with your local and state laws for details that may affect or modify the FDA requirements.

Are my recipes safe from public use and view?

Your recipes are safe with us! Your recipe and all other proprietary information remain confidential, and all clients receive a signed and dated non-disclosure agreement declaring the confidentiality of their proprietary information in our Statement of Work.

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