Calorie counts reaching ‘tipping point’
17 October, 2011
Restaurant and pub goers want more nutritional information on food menus - but many don’t properly understand it. Those are two of the conclusions to be drawn from new consumer research from Fourth Hospitality.
Based on interviews with around 3,000 people, it found that 80% of people would find calorie listings on menus useful, and that 55% often check labels for nutritional information when shopping in supermarkets. Two thirds (67%) would like to have access to nutritional information before ordering, and just over half (54%) said they would be more likely to choose a restaurant that showed that information ahead of one that didn’t.
The findings suggest that more pubs and restaurants need to follow several major operators including McDonald’s in adding more calorie counts and nutritional information to their menus. Catherine Iredale, communications director at Fourth Hospitality, said: “We may be approaching something of a tipping point on the issue. Perhaps for obvious reasons, there is a gulf between the information available in supermarket aisles versus restaurants, but it would seem that restaurateurs and eating-out groups could risk falling behind their customers on this issue.”
But the survey also uncovered widespread confusion about the health benefits or otherwise of many dishes. Just over 20% of people thought pizza was fairly healthy, regardless of toppings, and a similar number thought fish and chips could be healthy. 70% thought spaghetti bolognaise and homemade burgers were healthy.
The mixed messages on calorie counts means operators should tread a fine line on pushing nutritional information to customers. Harvey Smyth, chief executive of the Gondola group, said: “It’s not surprising that the research has produced such mixed responses. For us it’s all about giving our customers what they want. If a customer wants calorie information, they should have it, but it doesn’t need to be done in an in-your-face way. Our calorie information is readily available for customers in all our restaurants, on our website and downloadable on our app.”
The research also suggests that some people have good intentions on healthy eating but are reluctant to give up on treats in pubs and restaurants. Around 36% of respondents said they are good at watching their weight at home but that things go to pot when eating out of home.
Fourth Hospitality commissioned the report to promote its Star Chef system, which helps pubs and restaurants to calculate calorific and nutritional information in their dishes.