A message to Melvin Thompson, Restaurant Association of Maryland

August 1, 2007

Menu Bill Would Order Nutritional Information
by Mariana Minaya, Washington Post, 8/1/07

restaurant-menu.jpgDear Mr. Thompson,

You’re quoted as follows: “The more space we have to devote to nutritional information, the less space we have to describe the ingredients — the kind of information that helps customers choose what they want to eat.”

Earth to Thompson! Earth to Thompson! The ingredients aren’t the only kind of information that helps us!!! There are a large number of customers at American restaurants who have heart conditions, diabetes, metabolic syndrome or other health concerns that govern what we can or can’t eat, in terms of calories, sodium and/or cholesterol. It’s critical to our health to know what we’re getting.

Ruby Tuesday’s menu used to provide this for all items. That used to be a chain I could love.  But sadly, they switched back to cheese, cheese and more cheese — and no more nutritional info because they knew they’d look bad with all the cheese on everything.

I, for one, am absolutely delighted Montgomery Council Member George Leventhal has introduced this proposal, requiring chain restaurants to publish or post basic nutritional information. I’ve got news for you, Mr. Thompson — it really doesn’t take up much space on the menu. Ask your graphic designers. It’s easy to tweak font size. If you don’t want to reprint the entire menu at additional cost, why not prepare a simple one-page, loose insert?

This isn’t rocket science. By taking a few very simple initiatives you’ll make the dining experience that much more enjoyable for those of us who really do care what we eat. And remember, a happy customer will come back. A dissatisfied customer will tell upwards of seven or more friends.

Now which kind of customer were you saying you and your members want?



  1. If you continue reading the Washington Post story, you’ll note that I go on to say that many restaurants prefer to provide nutritional information in other formats (not on the menu) because it allows more space to provide much more comprehensive information to customers who are concerned about more than just calories, sodium and saturated fat. Brochures and signs at the point of purchase would allow for much more information, if that is the true goal here.

    See excerpt from the Post story:

    …Thompson said the restaurant industry will lobby the council to find a compromise that is less onerous for its businesses.

    He said restaurants prefer to list nutritional information that goes beyond the three indicators chosen by the council on Web sites or signs rather than on menus…

  2. Thanks for your response! And yes, I did read the entire article. And yes, brochures would also be convenient, in the same way that a flier insert in the menu would be.

    I’m not so sure about signs at point of purchase, though. Many years ago, when I was living in Florida, there was a fast-food chain called something like Simple Delites (I can’t quite recall the exact name) that used POP signs. There were so many items on the menu it was confusing to follow all the detail.

    I’m also not so sure about posting details on the web. That’s fine for reference but an inconvenience to have to try to remember to look up nutritional info before leaving the house, and then writing down or otherwise remembering what I want to order by the time my party arrives at the restaurant. And perhaps changing my mind on the way…

    Put the information into the customer’s hands, right at the time of ordering.

    And, if restaurants “prefer” to go beyond the council’s choices, by all means, please proceed! No need to wait for an ordinance that mandates what to do. Just make it easy for the restaurant’s guests.

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