The move to make displaying calorie counts on menus compulsory – which has been discussed before in this column – has just hit the headlines again as we are sending this issue to print. And the focus of the criticism is very much the effect it will have on the types of businesses that make up the out of home industry.
The move is being spearheaded by the Department of Health, but the Treasury has countered that smaller independent cafés and similar outlets should be exempt. The reason for this is that the Treasury has estimated that counting all these calories will cost each outlet around £500 – and that menus will have to be changed again each time the specials and/or recipes are.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, quickly issued a statement, saying: “Mandatory calorie labelling could have a significant impact on the hospitality sector, particularly smaller businesses that would struggle to cope with the huge burden of a one-size-fits-all approach. The knock-on effect would almost certainly mean prices go up and investment in businesses goes down.
“A blanket introduction of inflexible calorie labelling would represent a serious additional cost for businesses already facing tightening margins and economic instability. It would also represent a considerable burden for those venues that change their menus regularly, some on a daily basis.”
The fact is that out of home is one of the few industries that tends to thrive in uncertain times – and we don’t want any added expenses that could see the sort of problems that have hit casual dining recently trickling downwards. As much as we are happy to consider and support any sensible action that will help to counter the obesity epidemic, in this particular instance, we can only echo the sentiments expressed by the Treasury and Nicholls.