What is in this article?:
- MUFSO 2012: Industry leaders talk menu labeling, economy
- Menu labeling
Attendees heard from the CEOs of Jimmy John's, Caribou Coffee, Popeyes, P.F. Chang's, Bonefish Grill and Sheetz.
Menu labeling, for which government hasn’t yet issued final rules, drew varied responses from the executives.
“I’m really scared of it,” said Liautaud of Champaign, Ill-based Jimmy John’s. “Man, it’s a bummer because it’s some chubby stuff. I think I’m taking all the prices off the menu so I won’t have to label it. The label has to be as big as price, so I’m thinking I’ll take the price off and just say, ‘Guess!’ Maybe I’m being arrogant.”
Federico of P.F. Chang’s added, “I think I’ll follow the model of our good friend George Biel of [Hillstone Restaurants and] Houston’s, and just change the name of the restaurants in order to get below the minimum requirement of I think 20 locations.
“It makes no sense to anybody in the room that menu labeling is a function of the number of locations that you operate,” he said. “It’s either a good idea for Americans or it’s not a good idea for Americans.”
In markets where menu labeling is already required, Federico added, “We’ve not seen meaningful shifts in terms of what people are ordering and what they are not.” A number of Asian dishes have soy sauce, so Federico expects recipe engineering to take out sodium or sugar.
Bachelder said Atlanta-based Popeyes has done menu labeling in two states already, and the impact has been short-term, generally less than 30 days. “I’m not a fan of it,” she said. “The customer quickly treats it as wallpaper. It doesn’t give them particularly any more information in making decisions that they can’t get some other way. It doesn’t have a big impact on the business. It just makes your menu miserable to look at.”
She said digital menus with beautiful food shots might be an area for innovation in quick-service restaurants.
Sheetz said he plans to employ touch-screen ordering, already in use at units, to digitize menu labeling. He said the company had taken out “a lot of salt” during the research and development process.
Bonefish Grill has done a lot of work already in menu labeling, Cooper said.
“For full-service, there’s kind of a threshold where people raise an eyebrow. I think that number is about 600 calories.” Cooper said the chain has tweaked some sauces and has at least 60-plus items under 600 calories.
Tattersfield of Minneapolis-based Caribou Coffee said that although the chain has some espresso-based items that can be highly caloric, “a lot of the things we focused on when we relaunched food were things like turkey bacon and chicken-apple sausage.”
“This noise has been going on for a few years,” he added, so brands should be prepared. “Innovation has to be about whether you can have amazing, great products with the taste profile you want to have.”
CEO Panel featuring Golden Chain and Norman Award winners
Sponsored by American Express
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