As we told you yesterday, the Big Apple’s Big Brothers will soon force some fast-food chains to post calorie counts on their menu boards — but only those companies that already provide customers with that information (normally with point-of-sale posters and online nutrition guides). In an ironic twist, a few of these newly regulated restaurant companies are saying “thanks, but no thanks.” If New Yorkers feel slighted, their local bureaucrats are to blame. And they can always eat lunch across the river in New Jersey.
New York City’s new menu-labeling requirement only applies to a handful of restaurant companies. And it will include a number of nitpicky rules about how that information has to be presented — on menu boards, for instance, in the same font size as the rest of the menu. (The city’s Board of Health has yet to explain why posters that hang next to cash registers don’t do the same job.)
Among the companies targeted by New York City’s new regulation (all of which have been voluntarily offering their customers nutrition information for years), at least three — Quiznos, Wendy’s, and White Castle — have made an interesting move. In order to comply with the law, they’ve actually removed calorie counts (or all nutrition information) from existing in-store displays, brochures, and, in some cases, websites.
Shoehorning calorie counts into a crowded fast-food menu board is bound to be unwieldy and unworkable — and just the beginning. And since cheeseburgers and French fries are calorically created more or less equal, cherry-picking a handful of restaurants to overregulate would put some (the ones already practicing full disclosure, actually) at an unfair competitive disadvantage.
But there’s another reason for restaurant companies’ collective shrug. They appear to grasp what New York City’s finger-waggers have missed: Most Americans aren’t clamoring for a guilt trip when they go out to eat. A few, of course, want the information — hence the posters, brochures, and websites. Wendy’s, Quiznos, and White Castle have figured this out.