Many restaurants now required to include calorie count on menus

Published: May. 7, 2018 at 9:20 PM CDT
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While President Trump spent months dismantling "Obamacare" and replacing it with "Trumpcare," there was one piece of it he decided to keep. It's the last piece of the Affordable Care Act to be implemented -- including calorie counts on menus.

The new law requires restaurants with 20 or more locations to include the calorie information on their menus and menu boards, as well as making additional nutritional information available on site. The idea is to make the format the same for all restaurants -- and it benefits consumers.

"The change consumers are gonna see is no matter where they go across the country, they're gonna be able to go into a restaurant and see nutrition information across the board in all their restaurants in the same format no matter where they are," Cicely Simpson, the Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for the National Restaurant Association.

But restaurants aren't the only ones who'll need to make the changes.

"Restaurants and convenience stores and grocery stores," Simpson said. "Everyone is on the same level playing field."

Movie theaters, pizza delivery chains and even vending machines are now required to display calorie counts. That's part of why it took eight years to serve up the new requirements.

"The law was actually made to address the food that is eaten, but the push back initially came from, 'Who serves that food?' and 'Who should be required to post these calories?'" Simpson said.

Pizza Ranch is one restaurant on the clock to meet the new requirements.

"Our deadline has been extended out to June 4," said Preston Plautz, General Manager and Operating Partner at the Pizza Ranch on E. 10th St. in Sioux Falls and the location in Brandon. "At that point in time, all of the stores within our chain, about 200 of them, will all be moving towards the guidelines set up by the FDA."

The chain is adding calorie counts to paper and online menus, as well as its buffets. Some stores with have tablets guests can use to see nutrition information. Despite all the work that needs to be done in less than a month, Plautz said he's not worried.

"A lot of it is training, waiting for our corporate staff to make sure that everything is ready to go," Plautz said. "We anticipate that it'll be pretty smooth once everything hits, it's just in that time frame waiting for everything to come through -- we'll see it all come together."

The new law exempts small businesses, but they can comply if they choose. Restaurants said this law will also provide information for people with food allergies or chronic diseases who need to avoid certain things like sugar or sodium.

Many chain restaurants such as McDonalds have been displaying calorie counts for several years now. Some states, such as New York, even enacted their own laws requiring the nutrition information be put on menus, while waiting for a law at the federal level.