Pub and restaurant bosses say menu calorie count legislation comes at 'worst time' post-pandemic

Pub and restaurant bosses say menu calorie count legislation comes at 'worst time' post-pandemic

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The government’s calorie labeling initiative comes at the ‘worst possible time’ for an industry struggling to recover from the pandemic, experts warn.

The new legislation requires businesses with 250 or more employees in England, including cafes, restaurants and takeaways, to display calorie information on non-prepackaged foods and soft drinks.

Calories should be displayed at the point of choice, including on physical and online menus and on food delivery platforms such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo.

But restaurant owners and campaigners have criticized the timing of the new rules, arguing it will put pressure on an already struggling industry hammered by Covid lockdowns and restrictions.

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘The hospitality industry is working hard to ensure they are prepared and able to comply with the new regulations, but they come at the worst possible time for thousands of businesses struggling to survive.

“We have long called for a postponement of calorie labeling implementation and would like to see a ‘grace period’ after April to give companies the leeway to implement the new rules without the risk of unnecessary enforcement action from day one.

Pictured: Kate Nicholls, head of UK Hospitality, has said the new legislation comes at the worst possible time for the hospitality industry struggling to recover from the pandemic

Pictured: Kate Nicholls, head of UK Hospitality, has said the new legislation comes at the worst possible time for the hospitality industry struggling to recover from the pandemic

Campaigners think calorie labeling is stopping diners from ordering their favorite dishes

Campaigners think calorie labeling is stopping diners from ordering their favorite dishes

“It is completely unfair to expect companies devastated by Covid to suddenly introduce complicated and expensive new labeling when they have much more pressing matters to deal with – starting to make up for their losses of the past 24 months.

“So we believe that a period of at least six months of light enforcement and dialogue is needed to ensure smooth implementation, so that operators under pressure get the hang of the legislation and to ensure that they not be unnecessarily punished if they commit an offence. of the new rules, especially if they are only just on their way to recovery.’

Meanwhile, Emma McClarkin of the British Beer and Pub Association told GB News that post-pandemic legislation would increase financial pressure on pubs.

She said: ‘We are doing everything we can to help customers make healthy choices, but this puts an additional burden on businesses, at an extreme cost, at a time when we are trying to recover from the pandemic.

‘We are already seeing energy costs rise, so this is really an untimely additional burden on the government.’

Ms McClarkin told the outlet that the introduction of calorie labeling had had “mixed reviews” from customers, as most “just want to come in, have a treat and not feel guilty about it.”

Pictured: Emma McClarkin, of the British Beer and Pub Association, said new legislation on calorie labeling on menus would increase financial pressure on pubs after the pandemic

Pictured: Emma McClarkin, of the British Beer and Pub Association, said new legislation on calorie labeling on menus would increase financial pressure on pubs after the pandemic

Calories should be displayed at the point of choice, including on physical and online menus

Calories should be displayed at the point of choice, including on physical and online menus

She also added that it will be difficult for restaurants and pubs to offer seasonal menus under the new law due to the requirement to calculate and then display calories, which would mean additional costs with frequent menu changes.

The restaurant group run by brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin criticized the legislation as an additional cost to businesses and said government money could be better spent elsewhere.

A spokesperson for Galvin restaurants told Mail Online: “We have no doubt that it is important and right to encourage people to make balanced choices when choosing what to eat.

“But calories aren’t the full picture, many high nutritional foods are high in calories and many lower nutritional foods are low in calories.

The new legislation does not apply to all restaurants, only companies with more than 250 employees.

“The average diner might not know that, so that’s something we need to communicate with our guests.

“For operators who do need to list calories, there is now one more cost to consider, which will eventually be passed on to their guests, further increasing the cost of dining out.

“Perhaps all this money and the attention pumped into calorie legislation could be better spent on preschool education about the benefits of a healthy, balanced diet.

Menu at pizza chain Franco Manco shows calories next to each item, in line with new law

Menu at pizza chain Franco Manco shows calories next to each item, in line with new law

“After all, restaurants are a ‘treat’ for most people, not where most people eat three meals a day, seven days a week.”

The law was introduced to help reduce the estimated £1.6bn the NHS spends each year on fighting obesity, but it has been criticized for not paying attention to other key statistics including fiber content and nutrients and the difference between good and bad calories. †

The Pho group, which operates Vietnamese cafes, said it was not the place for restaurants to educate customers about food nutrition and hired nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert to ensure they provide the full picture and not just focus on calories.

Jules Wall, co-founder of Pho:3 ‘Eating out is about enjoying good food, good company and a little bit of what you feel like, and that should remain everyone’s focus.

Our goal is to be a reliable place to dine any day of the week without worrying about calories – so partnering with Rhiannon our goal is to help our teams and our customers understand a little more about nutrition, and enabling them to focus on the pleasure of dining out.”

The company, which has been sharing nutritional information online since 2013, added: “Publishing calories on our menus has added costs, which was probably less of a pain for us than others in the industry.

“It seems unnecessary at a time when hospitality is just coming back to life, but we also understand that people need to live happy and healthy lives after the pandemic.”

Pho’s nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert agreed that the calorie label shouldn’t dictate how nutritious a meal is.

Pub and restaurant bosses say menu calorie count legislation comes at 'worst time' post-pandemic

Ms Lambert says: ‘It’s important to remember that calories aren’t everything when it comes to the food we consume.

‘A number on a menu certainly does not determine how healthy you are or the quality of your food.

“What these numbers don’t take into account is people’s age, size or physical activity levels, which can have a big impact on the amount of calories a person takes in per day.”

Ranjit Mathrani, CEO of restaurant MW Eat, told Big Hospitality that the industry had “great reluctance” to go along with the new rules.

He said: ‘Operators consider it unnecessary. They are annoyed by it..

Mr Mathrani told the magazine it would mainly affect medium-sized hospitality businesses, adding: ‘They won’t necessarily have the right structures to absorb the costs.

‘Big companies like McDonald’s and KFC have nutritionists on their payroll. Implementation will also be more challenging for less standardized companies cooking from scratch.”

It comes as top chef Nick Nairn has called for small independent restaurants to be exempt from plans to introduce calorie counts on menus in Scotland.

Nairn expressed concern about the Scottish government’s plan to introduce similar amounts of calories on restaurant and cafe menus to tackle obesity.

Nairn told the BBC: ‘I think it’s a very reasonable thing to do for chain restaurants and fast food chains where the menu doesn’t change often.

‘But for my sector, the smaller, independent sector, we change our menu regularly, sometimes even twice a day.

‘It is totally impractical for us to be able to analyze every dish and put it on the map.

‘It just doesn’t work for the smaller sector. If I come up with a dish at 11 a.m. and set it up as a lunch special, how do I get the calorie count for that dish? It has to go to a lab and be analysed.’

Nairn added: ‘I got a call from my gamer this morning and he said ‘the pigeon is good today’. So I asked for 12 pigeons and I’m going to take the breasts off and make a pigeon salad.

‘That is responding to what is available to the market. I don’t have the time or the resources to count a calorie on that dish.”

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