With just a couple of clicks through its website, customers of Esquires Coffee, a coffeehouse franchisor, can find a breakdown of menu ingredients, allergens and nutritional information in an easy-to-read format. It’s something that’s a win not only for diners, but also for restaurants.
“The benefit of providing such data goes beyond any governmental regulation or requirement—it’s good for business,” says Aiden Keegan, national operations manager of the Vancouver, British Columbia-based coffeehouse.
In the United States, a new federal rule requiring foodservice operations to supply nutritional information to the public has been pushed back a year. Regardless, restaurant operators are moving forward on supplying nutritional information, thanks largely in part to improved technology and cloud-based data software. “The more advanced systems now provide the consumer with ample information about the food products they select,” says Jill Carte, category manager of food safety for DayMark Safety Systems.
The challenge for restaurants today in meeting pending legislation and consumer demand for data is determining the right software program to implement, say operators and industry observers. Keegan and Carte have outlined five areas for operators to consider when selecting a technology solution.
1. Comprehensive recipe database
A comprehensive ingredients database should give operators access to national and supplier databases, enabling them to search and pull from tens of thousands of food items, Carte says. “Nutritics Insight, distributed in North America by DayMark, also features the ability to upload additional supplier-specific databases to enhance the existing database of over 125,000 food ingredient items,” she says.
For Esquires Coffee, the more nutritional information available, the more its coffeehouses can tailor menu items for customers. “We highlight dishes that are high in protein for our gym-going customers,” Keegan says. “We can also design reduced-calorie menus targeted at our more health-conscious markets.”
2. Range of functionality
Esquires Coffee looked for a system that offered a wide range of tasks, such as analyzing allergens, nutrition and costs, and creating standard operating procedures, Keegan says. The company chose to use Nutritics Insight for its larger food database with a range of brands and niche foods.
Operators are looking for systems that offer everything from menu management to nutrition analysis, Carte says. “Users should consider the desire not only to analyze the contents of their recipes, but also to create recipe cards, as well as prep and plating instruction that aid in staff training,” she says. “This, in turn, ensures consistency in quality and taste from location to location.”
3. FDA compliance
Menu-labeling requirements were originally included in the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010. This spring, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pushed the compliance deadline for chain restaurants and retail food establishments back one year. The rule requires operators to prominently display calorie counts for standard menu items and make available additional nutrition information such as the amounts of fat, sodium and total carbohydrates in foods.
When the regulations do go into effect, operators will need a reliable system to perform food database calculations that yield nutritional facts, including calorie and allergen information, Carte says.
Any system that holds data on hundreds of food items, recipes, menu plans, calories and allergens needs to be easy to use, Carte says. Ease of use goes beyond just navigation, user interface and advance search functions.
“There are other factors,” she says. “For example, a system’s accessibility in terms of availability via multiple platforms and its ability to connect with other users are important qualities.”
“The cloud-based system also lets licensed users selectively collaborate on recipes and share with other users, within—and outside of—an organization,” Carte says. “These features improve kitchen efficiency, reduce waste and standardize recipe sizes among chefs at multiple locations.”
5. Training/technical support
In the fast-paced environment of foodservice, it’s critical to have around-the-clock training and support, Carte says. The right technology partner will offer online help centers, FAQs, on-demand webinars and 24/7 tech support via phone and email.
This was another reason to work with Nutritics, Keegan says: “Their support team was willing to go the extra mile to assist us; they had a clear understanding of our needs.”
Based in Bowling Green, Ohio, DayMark, a leading manufacturer of food-labeling technologies, has partnered with Nutritics, developer of a powerful cloud-based system that enables foodservice operators to manage recipe and menu data and, beginning next year, grab-and-go labeling. For more information, visit DayMarkSafety.com/Nutritics.