Customer survey reignites calorie labelling debate

Fifty-six per cent said that pizza was healthy if topped with certain vegetables or fruits, while over 20 per cent thought that pizza was ‘fairly healthy’, regardless of toppings

Two-thirds of pub and restaurant goers want to see more nutritional information - including calorie content - on food menus before placing their orders, new research has found.

The study by Fourth Hospitality of 3,000 adults has revealed that 67 per cent want the extra information, while 80 per cent said they would find calorie listings useful. The findings come after fast-food chain McDonald’s has moved to add calorific content to its UK menus.

Catherine Iredale, communications director from Fourth Hospitality, said: “Restaurant and pub operators have always rightfully taken the approach that any move to put calories on menus should be led not by legislators but by restaurant consumers – their customers.

“However, against the backdrop of the UK’s biggest restaurant group pressing ahead with calorie disclosure on its menus, and more than two-thirds of consumers calling for other operators to do the same, we may be approaching something of a tipping point on the issue.

The poll also revealed an increasing ‘information gap’ when comparing the weekly household food-shop experience to dining out. Over half of respondents said they regularly checked labels on food sold at supermarkets, while 62 per cent said they had a good idea of calories in food bought for the home and had ‘no idea’ about calorie values when eating out.

“Perhaps for obvious reasons, there is a gulf between the information available in supermarket aisles versus restaurants,” added Iredale. “But it would seem that restaurateurs and eating-out groups could risk falling behind their customers on this issue.”

Nutritional awareness

With growing issues of rising obesity levels in the UK, more than half of respondents said health and weight management was a matter of personal responsibility, and more than two-thirds said restaurants and eating-out groups had their part to play in tackling rising obesity levels.

The findings also showed a surprising lack of knowledge when it comes to nutritional awareness. Over 20 per cent thought that pizza was ‘fairly healthy’, regardless of toppings, while one in five thought fish and chips was a healthy dinner option.

Harvey Smyth is chief executive of Gondola, which operates the PizzaExpress restaurant chain. Smyth believes that customers should be able to see calorie counts, but only if they want to.

“It’s not surprising that the research has produced such mixed responses, he said. “For us it’s all about giving our customers what they want.

“If a customer wants calorie information, they should have it, but it doesn’t need to be done in an in-your-face way. Our calorie information is readily available for customers in all our restaurants, on our website and downloadable on our app.”

The 3,000 people were interviewed to ascertain their views on menu labeling during the summer 2011. Respondents were all aged over 18 and covered all income groups, attitudes and behaviours.

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Comments (1)

Sophie Hobson - 17 Oct 2011 | 09:01

This debate will not seem to go away

This debate will not seem to go away. There are so many reasons why the information should be displayed. It seems that any opposition is most likely to come from companies that stand to gain a bad reputation as a result of the content of their food.

17-Oct-2011 at 21:01 GMT

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