Do you see the glass as half full or half empty? We prefer to see it as half full. This is why we find it frustrating to see headlines such as this in the news: “Restaurant Calorie Labels Meaningless For Two-Thirds Of Consumers: Why Posted Warnings Don’t Work” (see the article).
Let’s start by stating the obvious: If two-thirds of restaurant customers don’t use calorie information to make informed decisions and healthier choices, that means that one-third of them do.
These results are actually impressive, considering that the study was done in 2009 in the United States, when there was no federal menu labelling law. The proposed law has still not come into effect in 2013.
If you take a closer look at the study, you’ll see that it was a cross-sectional survey, meaning that not everyone is being exposed to the same conditions. Participants were asked ‘Do you typically read calorie information for foods and drinks when it is available at fast-food and chain restaurants?’ The fact that 36% of people said yes shows that a significant number of people may be going out of their way to seek out nutrition information in chain restaurants, even when it is not right on the menu. These are very motivated people, so it’s not surprising that 95% of them reported using the calorie information to help them decide what to order.
The bottom line is that this study is a good news story for Savvy Diners. It is consistent with our claims that up to 30% of restaurant goers will use menu labelling information to make healthier choices. And we have no doubt that by having to disclose this information in a very public way, restaurants will have an incentive to make their products healthier. This will benefit everyone who eats in restaurants, not just those who use the information to make a better choice.
It’s too bad that we keep having to point out that, when it comes to menu labelling, the glass is half full and not half empty.