I saw an item on BBC Breakfast News recently about some activist calling for restaurants to display the number of calories and other nutritional information, in line with some trials in North America, on their menus.
Now, the fact that this doesn’t currently happen suggests one of two things:
1. There’s no demand for it
2. There is demand, but restauranteurs think it will do more damage than good.
Whether you think this is a good idea or not probably comes down to whether you think dining out is a treat and you shouldn’t worry too much about your waistline, or whether you think you should be able to keep your diet even when you do go out, and be able to enjoy your meal to boot.
Either way, the only reason a restauranteur would object to giving approximate nutritional information is because they know their food is full of crap. If not, why not give the choice?
They might answer that knowing the nutritional value (or lack of it) would put people off, but there are a couple of problems with this view:
a) It assumes when people eat out they aren’t already aware that they are eating unhealthily (surely most people are)
b) For those who don’t realise the unhealthiness of certain foods, wouldn’t it help for them to learn?
c) It assumes that there aren’t already a host of people who either don’t go out as much as they would want to because of their diet, or when they do they just have a main and some water (eg/ spend less).
Media focus on, and public awareness of, obesity and health issues have never been higher, and all supermarkets have ‘healthy choices’ options across the range. The only area this health awareness doesn’t seem to penetrate is the restaurant business (to be fair, many fast food places actually publicise nutritional info more than formal restaurants).
My point, though, is not moral, but economic. I think there’s a big gap in the marketplace for restaurants, especially the chains like Zizis, Pizza Express etc… to have ‘healthy eating sections of their menus, or to offer nutritional information across the board.
Having worked in offices my whole life, there’s often a difficulty when going out in groups as many of the group are often on diets (of various kinds). What better way to attract these groups, and people that just want to eat healthily in general, than to offer the information they need to watch their calorie intake.
I’m sure some restaurants must have done this already at some point – a brand tie-in with Weight Watchers seems far too obvious not to have been tried – but it hasn’t impacted with me, so clearly hasn’t been are core part of their marketing communications (or I am blind).
Perhaps they are just too hung up on the fact that offering healthy options suggests the rest of their menu is full of crap – as if we don’t know that a 16oz steak in creamy mushroom sauce and chips is, relatively, unhealthy. We know. We know and we don’t care. But some people do, and these people deserve the right of choice.