Hot Air Exclusive: federal menu mandate

When Speaker Pelosi famously said that we’d have to let Congress pass the Obamacare law in order for us to find out what was in it, she wasn’t kidding around. Part of that law is a new federal menu mandate that applies to any restaurant with 20 or more locations. Such businesses must now print caloric content information for every menu item sold and they must do so not only on the menu boards at the counters (think sandwich or pizza-by-the-slice joints) but on the menus and brochures at the tables, too. Ed Morrissey at Hot Air interviewed the VP at a local restaurant chain, Davannii’s, about the ramifications of this new law:

People don’t know about this part of the law, generally, at least not yet. It’s one of those buried items that the Dems didn’t want anyone to see before they passed the law and Obama signed it. It sounds innocuous enough – who wouldn’t want to have that information available? – but it’s actually really onerous in practice. If your favorite dish at your favorite eatery is made with a particular sauce or even a spicy mustard and the restaurant decides to change up their supplier from brand A to brand B, they are required to recalculate the caloric content and then reprint all of their menu materials. Menu boards above the counters are not always the “build-your-own-letter-by-letter” affairs and are sometimes custom printed appliques that costs hundreds of dollars per print. Every menu at every location in the chain has to be reprinted and that has to happen every single time something changes. I mentioned a change in supplier. That could just as easily be a change in the supplier’s recipe that alters the caloric content. It’s not just the restaurants on the hook, here. Those suppliers will have to notify all of their customers whenever they do make a change to their product because the restaurants will have to react to that change.

The restaurants, of course, are accountable by law so they’ll have to have people whose jobs will entail monitoring the numbers of each of their ingredients to catch any changes that require a menu reprint. Having to have such employees on staff who draw a paycheck and yet don’t actually produce anything for the restaurant to operate will amount to yet another capital drain on the business. With all of that in mind, what entrepreneur in his right mind would even consider opening a 20th store?

No store, no employees. No tax revenue for the local and state government. No tax revenue for the federal government, either. And no service for the community. Everyone loses, and for what? For a chart printed in a menu that could be far more effectively offered on the Web and for which the vast majority of customers never ask.

This is what happens when politicians and their elite supporters write feel-good laws in secrecy without the input of or the knowledge of business people who must live with the consequences of those laws. This law was bad before and it’s getting worse every day as more and more of what was hidden comes to light.