December 17, 2007

Nutrition Info on Receipts?

A few days ago, I posted about nutrition information on your beer. But what about nutrition information on your receipt? FitSugar had an interesting link today to Nutricate, company that makes software to print nutrition information right on your receipt at fast food restaurants. On their website, they say, “At Nutricate, we believe in the familiar saying, Knowledge is Power. We believe that education helps people make decisions, which are best for their lifestyles.”

In their FAQ for foodservice professionals, they add, “Eighty-nine percent of our research study respondents said they wanted more nutrition information available at all restaurants. They want to know the nutritive value of what they are consuming and many track their nutrition intake.” I believe that statistic completely. What I don’t believe is that it will help profits to give that information to customers.

We all know that fast food restaurants are reluctant to put nutritional information on menus, where customers can see it before they make a decision. Nutricate seems to provide the solution: put the nutrition facts on the receipt where customers will see it after they’ve already bought their food. Actually, most customers probably won’t see it at all – when was the last time you analyzed your McDonalds receipt? When I worked at Panera, half our customers crumpled it up in a ball and stuffed it in their pocket, or walked away without even taking it.

There are two case studies on the Nutricate website, both for restaurants that serve pretty healthy fare. Do we really think McDonalds is going to adopt this, and show customers that their double Big Mac with large fries and a large cokes is 1526 calories? For that matter, even a company like Subway that puts all of their nutrition info right on the menu is unlikely to adopt this. Subway makes money from the “halo effect”: people think all their food is healthy even though only some of it is. Plus, if you add any condiments that aren’t included in nutritional calculation of the sandwich, you’re bumping the calories up. The point of the Nutricate system is to account for those additional condiments and modifications, but do you really think restaurants want their customers to know exactly what they are eating? A study by the National Restaurant Association found that 70% of customers modified their order when nutritional information on their order was available. It’s just a hunch, but I’m guessing those 70% weren’t supersizing!

Finally, I am all for education, but I don’t know that it necessarily helps to have it on your receipt, which comes AFTER you’ve ordered and made your decision. This is especially true since most people will probably forget all that information by the next time they visit the restaurant.

All in all, it’s a pretty sneaky way for restaurants to pretend like they’re helping people stay healthy, while actually not doing anything at all!


2 thoughts on “Nutrition Info on Receipts?”

  1. Hi from a fellow NYer. Have been following your random diatribes on nutrition for a while now, and always found them to be interesting and delightful. So just thought I’d drop in and give my respects. Keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks for reading! I’m definitely pretty interested in nutrition and read a ton of stuff on it, though I don’t have any real qualifications. I’ve been thinking about getting a certification (maybe combine it with a CPT?), so glad to hear I’m interesting even though I may not be providing the most scientific/intellectual commentary 🙂

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