Restaurant chains – from fast-food fare to fine dining – are super-sizing their nutritional disclosures by adding signage and menu notations about ingredients, and pointing out potential issues for those with dietary restrictions or food allergies. The switch is a response to customer demands, and some restaurants have found it to be a way to woo diners who are wary about eating out, says theLos Angeles Times.
Chinese food chain P.F. Chang’s has created specialized menus for those who are vegetarians, searching for kosher meals, or are allergic to one of 11 potential allergens. Wendy’s offers a gluten-free menu upon request, while Dunkin’ Donuts offers kosher fare at dozens of locations. At Chipotle Mexican Grill, you’ll see signage letting customers know that bacon is used in the pinto bean recipe.
As Americans demand more information about the food being served, fast-food and casual dining restaurants have responded. Many of these chains have gone well beyond the legally mandated calorie information by updating signage and menus for diet-conscious customers and those with food allergies or other restrictions. Avoiding allergens has been difficult when ordering off a restaurant menu, because the ingredient list is often a mystery.
These restaurants note that providing additional information can help them stand out. Chris Weiss, vice president of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, says “If you can demonstrate to families that you can offer them a safe meal, you establish a tremendous sense of loyalty and create repeat customers.” He expects more restaurants to use this tactic in the future,as healthy eating becomes an increasingly hot-button issue and food allergies become more noticeable in society.
Could there be a downside of providing so many details about the food we eat? Some fear that as menus become cluttered with such warnings, it could result in information overload. Restaurants with secret formulas or proprietary recipes, meanwhile, are hesitant to publicize their ingredient lists.