The long-awaited deadline for restaurants to comply with the FDA’s menu labeling rules is May 7, 2018.

With the various pushbacks and alterations to labeling requirements, it’s important to know the standards your restaurant will be expected to meet. Here is a checklist to help you review your restaurant’s progress:

Determine Calorie Counts

Determine a reasonable calorie count for all menu items. A dietitian can get a close estimate of caloric content by analyzing recipes and comparing the ingredients against FDA and USDA nutrient values. A laboratory analysis isn’t required, but it can be helpful for determining the most accurate calorie counts.

Once you have the correct calorie data, make sure the numbers are rounded correctly according to the FDA’s rounding rules. Some nutrients have different rules for rounding (and different insignificant values).

Document Your Methods

The FDA will use a “reasonable basis” rule to determine whether calorie counts are accurate. This means you will be responsible for closely documenting the process of determining calorie counts; Be prepared to defend your numbers. As long as the methods are scientific and produce reasonable results, they should be acceptable to an auditor.

Include as many details as you can in your documentation. For example, make copies of the recipes that were used to calculate calorie counts, and describe how you plan to ensure those recipes are followed closely. Discuss how you determined accurate average calorie counts for menu ingredients with multiple suppliers. List any other methods you used to make calorie counts as accurate as possible.

Post Nutritional Information

Reprint menus and signs that list menu items. Create a booklet of additional nutritional information that consumers can see upon request. Update your website if your menu is posted there.

Take care that calories are labeled transparently on all signage. This means calorie counts should be the same size, a similar font, and as easy to read as other menu details (such as item name and price).

Make a Plan for Training Transient Staff

Every employee will need to be taught the importance of following recipes. They may also need training on how to answer customer questions about the new nutritional data. Create a plan for educating employees, and document how you will implement it.

Make an Ongoing Compliance Plan

Review your options for continuing to implement these new compliance rules as menu items change. Discuss how to audit your compliance internally, and decide what additional training modules will need to be created for the long term.

Continue to Raise the Bar on Consistency

While the initial menu labeling deadlines are approaching, consistency and quality assurance within restaurants is important year-round. These new regulations may be an opportunity in disguise to get more organized around quality control, which will ultimately lead to a better product.

GoSpotCheck’s software helps franchises ensure consistency, alignment, and quality across locations. It allows users to collect data and photos during field visits to stores, accounts, and any other location—which are aggregated into actionable reports and visuals in real time. Its compliance tracking feature sends an alert when a field response doesn’t meet company standards, so that issues can be resolved and addressed immediately. The app also provides capabilities for identifying employee training needs and delivering training content selectively to staff.

The importance of the May 7th deadline will echo throughout the rest of the year. With the right software, restaurants can make sure that efforts dedicated to passing the FDA’s menu labeling test will be fruitful for the rest of 2018.

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