The big news hit the restaurant industry earlier this year: 2015 will be the last Christmas where “calories don’t count during the holidays.” Come next December, we’ll be painfully aware of the nutritional value of every morsel we munch—at least while dining at restaurants. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated that all chain restaurants and fast food joints publish calorie counts with additional nutritional data available upon request.
And of course, the FDA required that the regulation be enacted by December of 2016—right before the healthy New Year’s blitz. So much for the “I didn’t know it was so fattening!” excuse. (Cough, me, cough). While this change was originally scheduled for 2015, the extended deadline just means that things are getting real next holiday season.
What’s the foodie fallout?
Industry analysts have already begun weaving predictions. While some fear that posting nutritional information will hijack sales, other research suggests that calorie counts don’t affect long-term customer behavior. Starbucks witnessed an increase in sales positively correlated to posting nutritional data on its menu.
Regardless, this regulation will require a shift in operations, from menu development and portion sizes to staff consistency. But what does this change mean for marketers and PR professionals in the restaurant industry?
PR Strategies for Restaurants
First and foremost, the same solid PR strategies apply. Know your target audience, backed by thorough market research. How health-conscious is your target demographic? Is long-term well-being or weight loss a high priority? How well does it understand the meaning of nutritional information and the effect on quality of life? The values, behaviors and priorities of your customers will determine the tone of the next step.
…which is storytelling. Take this opportunity to highlight the story behind the food—the ingredients, the recipes, the founder’s legacy, the passionate staff who prepare it. Widen the scope to the bigger picture beyond simple calories in, calories out. Restaurants have the chance to emphasize quality of life by exploring enriching experiences, such as savoring flavor or celebrating moments—the deep stuff of life that surpasses science.
And always remember, honesty is the number one trait that builds brand loyalty. Don’t be afraid to lift the veil and welcome your customers into your kitchen. Who knows! This new regulation might incite a counterculture revolution that prizes quality of life over the pant size.
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