FDA Menu Labeling Takes Effect and Would You Like Wine with Your Ice Cream?

The Marvelous Monday edition of MRM’s Daily Bite features FDA menu labeling, MealPal, Nestlé and Starbucks, Shayna’s Place, Pork & Mindy’s, Groupon, Soundprint, Intouch Insight Ltd., Kit Kat Italian Bar and Grill and Baskin-Robbins.

Send news items to Barbara Castiglia at bcastiglia@modernrestaurantmanagement.com.

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Menu Labeling Goes Into Effect

As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) is beginning enforcing its Menu Labeling Rule, the FDA released the following statement from Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.   “Science tells us that improvements in diet and nutrition offer one of our greatest opportunities to have a profound and generational impact on human health, reducing the burden of chronic disease, from diabetes to cancer to heart disease. We know that many Americans both want and use nutritional information on food package labels to make decisions about what to eat to help improve their health. But consumers can’t always access similar information at their favorite restaurant chains. Or there is little consistency in the information that they receive. Yet more Americans are eating meals away from home.

This is why Congress gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration responsibility for ensuring that families across America would have consistent access to calorie and nutrition information on restaurant menus and takeout foods – regardless of which state or city they live in. This legislation provided a uniform standard to replace the patchwork of menu labeling laws that were appearing around the country. The new framework ensured that consumers would have access to consistent, science-based information.

Many have heard me cite this statistic, but it bears repeating because this is a driving factor for us at the FDA and for those in Congress who crafted the law: Americans currently eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home. At the same time, rates of child and adult obesity in the U.S. are at historic highs. Research, including a recent RAND Corporation study, suggests that people choose menu items with fewer calories when they have access to calorie information and that such information does not affect their satisfaction with the choice they make or their ratings of the restaurant. Studies suggest that access to clear and consistent information about calories in restaurant items can help reduce calorie intake, which over time could make a difference in obesity rates.

Consumers may have already noticed calorie counts listed next to their favorite menu items in some restaurants, coffeehouses and supermarket salad bars. I’m pleased to see many restaurants are already implementing these new provisions. We applaud their efforts in meeting the needs of Americans.

Starting today, this information will be required throughout the country as the FDA’s menu labeling rule is implemented. Consumers walking into eating establishments covered under the rule will know how many calories are in the foods they may want to order. This includes establishments that are chains with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name that offer substantially the same menu items consisting of restaurant-type foods. Consumers can also ask these establishments for additional nutritional information — provided, for example, as a booklet, handout or in electronic form — that includes the amount of sodium, fiber, sugars, total carbohydrates, saturated fat and protein for any standard menu item. This is information Americans want or need in order to make decisions about the foods they eat so they can make more informed choices about their diets and health for themselves and their families.

We’re also committed to helping industry in fulfilling this requirement in a way that is both effective and not overly burdensome. In order for these opportunities to be maximally beneficial to consumers, the new provisions also need to be minimally burdensome for businesses to effectively comply.

That’s why we’ve taken new steps to reduce the costs that the new provisions will impose on businesses. Today, the FDA completed a last critical step before the menu labeling rule implementation date by finalizing an existing guidance that provides additional clarity and details requested by the food industry on the FDA’s thinking on various topics related to the new regulation. While the overall framework in our guidance remains largely unchanged, we’ve made some meaningful updates to address thoughtful and important input from the public and industry stakeholders. These include more flexibility for businesses in how they can address challenges that some establishments faced in meeting the law’s requirements.

The changes in the final guidance include expanded and new examples of the many ways to comply with the menu labeling requirements. The guidance includes pictures of the flexible approach that covered establishments can take, under FDA’s regulation, in choosing how to display calories on menus and menu boards. The agency’s goal is to give establishment owners clear, efficient ways to deliver this information to consumers. According to the National Restaurant Association, thousands of restaurants are already complying with the labeling requirement in anticipation of the upcoming deadline and because consumers have been asking for more transparency on the nutritional content of the food they order. 

Overall, the guidance clarifies that posters, billboards, coupon mailings and other marketing materials are generally not considered menus that would require calorie counts under our regulation. It also provides other practical and flexible options for implementing the regulation, such as graphical depictions to illustrate ways to post calories for multiple items on a single sign, such as those that might be features at a self-service buffet or beverage stations. In response to concerns from pizza chain owners who shared with us that they believed it would be difficult to develop menu boards reflecting the thousands of topping combinations people might want on their pizza, we provided several graphic illustrations to provide options for how to accomplish this. Our goal is to implement these Congressional provisions in the most efficient, effective manner that both benefits consumers without placing unnecessary barriers on industry.

To advance these goals, we’re also taking a flexible approach to implementing the new provisions. We plan to work collaboratively with covered establishments to help them meet the requirements so that more consumers will be able to access and use nutritional information that will now be at their fingertips or in front of them on a menu board. For the first year, we’ll center our efforts on helping covered establishments come into compliance with the law. We’ll focus on educational outreach to provide parties with help on how they can efficiently comply with the new provisions. The FDA will allow covered entities a reasonable opportunity to make adjustments to bring themselves into compliance.

We’re encouraged that so many consumers will benefit from the uniform calorie information on menus covered by the new law. We’ll continue to work with industry stakeholders to support their implementation. But it’s also important to note that the implementation of menu labeling is one part of a comprehensive tool box — that includes changes to the Nutrition Facts label and modernization of labeling claims — to help consumers make healthier choices for themselves and their families.

These efforts are part of a broader multi-year Nutrition Innovation Strategy that I announced earlier this year. FDA’s new policy aims to provide all Americans with easier access to nutritious, affordable foods by arming consumers with information and encouraging the food industry to innovate in producing the healthier foods that today’s informed consumer wants. The Nutrition Innovation Strategy will modernize claims like “healthy” on food packages, modernize how we establish standards of identity for foods, make ingredient information on labels easier to decipher, help streamline the process for establishing qualified health claims on food labels, and encourage companies to reduce sodium in their products. As we pass this new milestone with menu labels, we’ve already begun important steps towards the next nutrition-focused efforts to help Americans lead healthier lives as part of our new Nutrition Innovation Strategy.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.”

MealPal Launches WorkPals

MealPal, the subscription service and app that offers affordable lunch pick-up from restaurants, launched Workpals, an office-driven social feature that allows users to see what meals their co-workers are reserving. This announcement takes place on the heels of MealPal’s expansion of service to Seattle, their newest market in the U.S., as well as their plans to further expand to markets in Asia. 

WorkPals, launching first in Seattle and San Francisco, will help members coordinate their lunch pickups with their colleagues and see the most popular selections in their office.  Many large companies have hundreds of employees already using MealPal together. For example, at Salesforce, there are over 1,000 people using MealPal and over 40% of them are reserving their lunches from the same restaurant and pick up time as their colleagues. This new feature will make the coordination process of team lunches more efficient.

“Lunch is already a very social meal, with many employees going out with colleagues to pick up meals. Over 80 percent of our customers learned about MealPal from a friend or co-worker, and many of them were already coordinating their meals together. In many cases, one employee is bringing back meals for multiple co-workers from the same restaurant.” said MealPal’s co-founder, Mary Biggins.   

In its two years of operation, MealPal has raised over $35 million in venture capital funding and has served more than eight million lunches in 16 cities globally. With over 4,000 restaurant partners, MealPal offers their service in major cities in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia. Having a strong foothold in these markets and continuing to launch in new cities, MealPal looks towards expanding to additional countries, such as Asia, within the next year. 

Nestlé Wins Perpetual Rights to Market Starbucks

Nestlé was granted  perpetual rights to market Starbucks consumer and foodservice products globally, outside of the company’s coffee shops. This transaction provides Nestlé with a strong platform for continued growth in North America with leadership positions in the premium roast and ground and portioned coffee businesses. It also allows Nestlé to capture exciting new growth opportunities in the rest of the world with Starbucks premium products. As a complete provider of coffee solutions, Nestlé will accelerate growth in out-of-home channels. 

“This global coffee alliance will bring the Starbucks experience to the homes of millions more around the world through the reach and reputation of Nestlé,” saidKevin Johnson, president and ceo, Starbucks. “This historic deal is part of our ongoing efforts to focus and evolve our business to meet the changing consumer needs, and we are proud to work alongside a company that is committed to our shared values.”

“This transaction is a significant step for our coffee business, Nestlé’s largest high-growth category,” said Mark Schneider, CEO, Nestlé. “With Starbucks, Nescafé and Nespresso we bring together three iconic brands in the world of coffee. We are delighted to have Starbucks as our partner. Both companies have true passion for outstanding coffee and are proud to be recognized as global leaders for their responsible and sustainable coffee sourcing. This is a great day for coffee lovers around the world.”  

As part of this transaction, Starbucks will receive an up-front cash payment of USD 7.15 billion for a business which generated annual sales of USD 2 billion. The transaction does not include the transfer of any fixed assets, which facilitates a smooth and efficient integration. Nestlé expects this business to contribute positively to its earnings per share and organic growth targets as from 2019. Nestlé’s ongoing share-buyback program will remain unchanged.

Approximately 500 Starbucks employees will join the Nestlé family to drive performance of the existing business and global expansion. Operations will continue to be located in Seattle. The agreement is subject to customary regulatory approval and is expected to close by the end of 2018. The agreement excludes Ready-to-Drink products and all sales of any products within Starbucks coffee shops.

Shayna’s Place Cafe To Open at Sylvan | Thirty

Rhode Island-based Shayna’s Place, a family-owned and operated cafe that provides employment opportunities for people with special needs, signed a lease to open its first Texas location at Sylvan | Thirty later this year. Lou Olerio is expanding the sandwich and coffee shop, which was inspired by his cousin Shayna who has Down Syndrome. Shayna’s Place will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, including sandwiches, salads, smoothies, pastries and juices, as well as a local selection of coffee, soda, wine and beer. It is expected to open next to CiboDivino Marketplace in late summer.

“From the moment I decided to expand the family business, I was set on making Sylvan | Thirty its home because of the development’s family feel,” said owner Lou Olerio. “The area’s residents appreciate the vibe of a unique family business versus walking into another chain restaurant even if it’s just for a quick bite to eat.”

Designed by Marc Hooper, Shayna’s Place will serve as a cozy and intimate place for customers to dine either inside or outside on the spacious patio.

“Shayna’s Place contains all of the elements that make Sylvan | Thirty businesses successful — family-focused, community-oriented and healthy, local cuisine. We specifically seek out these attributes when looking for new concepts to offer in Dallas,” said Brent Jackson, President of Oaxaca Interests and developer of Sylvan | Thirty.

Last year, USA Today named their sandwich “Vinny’s Kitchen” — a classic Italian sandwich named after Shayna’s grandma Vinny —  the “Best Grinder in Rhode Island.”

Music Curator at Pork & Mindy’s 

Pork & Mindy’s announced its partnership with Paul Oakenfold, a three-time Grammy Award and two-time World music Awards nominee. He is now partnering with the BBQ concept led by Founder Kevin Corsello and Executive Chef and Food Network star Jeff Mauro, as an equity partner and exclusive Music Curator.

Oakenfold’s partnership aligns with Pork & Mindy’s belief that great moments in life are created through food, music and art. For over three decades he has elevated and shaped the EDM music genre around the world. His knowledge, experience and global presence, Oakenfold will help develop and position Pork & Mindy’s presence abroad and around the world.

“I am very excited to be a part of the Pork & Mindy’s team,” said Oakenfold. “I studied in food for years and have an obvious love for music. This is a great partnership that embodies my interests and passions.”

Oakenfold will also be Pork & Mindy’s Music Curator for the brand, creating a selection of artists and styles of music that will be streamed in all Pork and Mindy’s locations as well as online, where it will also be available for purchase.

“An important component of the Pork and Mindy’s model surrounds individuality,” said Jeff Mauro, Executive Chef of Pork & Mindy’s. “This partnership with Paul Oakenfold allows us to further create a unique dining experience for our guests.”

Groupon Adds AMEX

Groupon, a marketplace where you can save up to $100 a week on the things that you do every day in your neighborhood, has added American Express, a fellow champion of supporting local, independently-owned small businesses, to its Groupon+ (Groupon Plus) free-to-claim, cash-back restaurant deals program currently available in approximately 25 U.S. markets. Once the partnership is fully ramped, American Express Card Members in Groupon+ cities will be able to take advantage of offers at thousands of participating local restaurants––all without the hassle of a having to print out a piece of paper or hand over their phone.

“We’re thrilled to add American Express to our growing Groupon+ program––giving us the three largest payment networks in North America,” said Groupon’s President of North America Aaron Cooper. “Groupon+ removes the hassles associated with using a Groupon voucher at local restaurants and makes it super easy for people to take advantage of great offers when they use their enrolled card to dine out in their neighborhood.”

At the end of 2017, Groupon+ had 2.7 million cards enrolled in the program and nearly doubled consumer and merchant participation in each of the previous two quarters.

 The Noise at Baltimore’s Food Scene

The Baltimore food scene now has another factor to consider when choosing where to dine: noise level. SoundPrint, known as the “Yelp for noise,” is a New York-based mobile application that partnered with Baltimore’s Hearing and Speech Agency (HASA) to launch the app’s data collection. The partnership seeks to serve the greater Baltimore community by providing the average decibel levels of a restaurant so customers can determine the best spots for conversation. Following a soft launch, the app is officially live.

“Many people don’t have a concept of healthy noise levels,” said Greg Scott, founder SoundPrint. “This can be a problem both for conversation, and for hearing health.”

Scott was inspired to create the app after finding other consumer review sites to lack accuracy in sound readings, which made it difficult at times to hear and connect with his dates in New York.

“We are huge supporters of the Baltimore foodie scene, and want to enhance and support its growth by providing another resource for diners who may be hard of hearing, or simply want an environment that’s conducive to conversation,” said Erin Stauder, executive director of HASA. “There is a tendency for people who are hard of hearing to simply avoid going out to restaurants; we see this as a way for these individuals to still enjoy the social event of dining out, without having to worry about noise level,” she said.

The app allows customers to use a real-time sound meter to take a 15-second reading of the decibel level of a restaurant or bar. The crowdsourced readings make up a sound profile for each venue. Users can filter restaurants based on how loud or quiet they are, much like you’d use filters to search for a restaurant on Yelp.

Several hundred sound readings were taken across neighborhoods in Baltimore in April following the app’s soft launch. This data makes up Baltimore’s “Quiet List” and “Loud List,” of individual restaurants, as well as the quietest and loudest neighborhoods.

The following lists were curated using several hundred SoundPrint data captures taken during peak restaurant hours, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

The Quiet List – Quietest Restaurants in Baltimore

1. Ban Thai Restaurant (N. Charles/Mt. Vernon)
2. Dalesio’s (Little Italy)
3. Himalayan Bistro (South Baltimore)
4. Kiku Sushi (South Baltimore)
5. Da Mimmo (Little Italy)
6. Lumbini Restaurant (N. Charles/Mt. Vernon)
7. La Tavola (N. Charles/Mt. Vernon)
8. Ikaros (Greektown)
9. Charleston Restaurant (Fells Point)
10. Dooby’s (N. Charles/Mt. Vernon)

The Loud List – Loudest Restaurants in Baltimore

1. R. House (Hampden)
2. Holy Frijoles (Hampden)
3. Homeslyce (N. Charles/Mt. Vernon)
4. Rye Street Tavern (South Baltimore)
5. Mick O’Shea’s (N. Charles/Mt. Vernon)
6. Alexander’s Tavern (Fells Point)
7. Papi’s Tacos (Fells Point)
8. Clavel (Hampden)
9. The Brewer’s Art (N. Charles/Mt Vernon)
10. The Boathouse Canton Waterfront Grill (Canton)

Quietest Neighborhood for Dining in Baltimore: Little Italy (Quiet, avg. 63 dBA)

Loudest Neighborhood for Dining in Baltimore: S. Baltimore – Riverside/Fed Hill/Locust Point (Very Loud, avg. 81 dBA)

Other insights

  • Restaurants in Baltimore generally have Moderate noise-level until 8 p.m. when it transitions into Loud based on average dBA. 
  • Initial data indicates Baltimore may be one of the most noise-friendly restaurant cities, but more robust data is needed to verify. 

Decibel Guidelines 

  • Quiet = 70 dBA or below (safe for hearing health, conducive to conversation)
  • Moderate = 71 – 75 dBA (safe for hearing health, manageable for conversation)
  • Loud = 76 – 80 dBA (likely safe for hearing health, conversation is difficult)
  • Very Loud = 81+ dBA (unsafe for hearing health, conversation is very difficult)
LiaCX Launches

Intouch Insight Ltd. launched its new customer experience management (CEM) software, LiaCX™. The cloud-based software helps organizations with multiple locations in industries such as retail, restaurant, and hospitality, create more value and drive action from their customer experience (CX) programs through its patent-pending Action Campaign™ technology.

“Many organizations discover that it’s easy to collect information about customer experience – what’s difficult is being able to take swift and appropriate action based on that information. Without the ability to take effective action, organizations are missing out on a higher return on investment from their voice-of-the-customer programs,” said Cameron Watt, President and Chief Executive Officer of Intouch Insight. “We developed LiaCX to make it easy for our customers to identify areas of their customer journey in need of focus, mobilize all levels of their organization to take the necessary actions for improvement, and track the impact of those actions on business outcomes.”

Intouch Insight, which announced a 97 percent customer retention rate earlier this year, drew on over 25 years of experience collecting CX data for Fortune 500 brands, to develop its new CEM software.

LiaCX is built on modern technology designed to handle big data, and is mobile optimized. The software collects and combines data in real-time from sources such as surveys, mobile checklists, mystery shopping, operational audits, social media, and call centers, and rapidly integrates data from third-party systems like Salesforce, Oracle, and SAP. All data is mapped to the customer journey and artificial intelligence-powered features transform the data into meaningful CX insights. Organizations can easily take action on those insights to improve business performance using LiaCX Action Campaigns.

Action Campaigns allow LiaCX customers to:
● Create targeted campaigns to improve specific areas of the customer journey and business metrics
● Assign specific actions/tasks to employees at different levels across the organization and at different frequencies
● Verify whether or not actions were completed through integrated mobile checklists and photo capture
● Measure the impact of actions on specific business metrics in real-time

Toronto’s Kit Kat Turns 30

You know there’s something special about a restaurant when, at any minute, an A-list star could cruise in for a plate of Angelhair Basilico, Osso Buco Milanese or world-famous Penne and Spicy Italian Sausage. That’s how it is at Kit Kat Italian Bar and Grill. This laid back Toronto fine dining destination that has been the buzz of international entertainment celebrities and local in-the-knows for 30 years. Kit Kat is the type of place where every diner is made to feel like a star.

Named one of the top 10 Toronto restaurants around the iconic CN Tower; Top-10 Best restaurant in downtown Toronto; a TripAdvisor top-rater and “Our Spot” on Girls on Food, this globally-renowned eatery is one of the original and most popular on “Restaurant Row”, the bustling vibrant strip in the Toronto entertainment district that lines King Street West. Along with visiting and local entertainment music, movie and TV stars, Kit Kat is within walking distance for theatre-goers on their way to and from Princess of Wales Theatre, Royal Alexandra Theatre and TIFF Lightbox; sports fans taking in a game at Rogers Centre, and concert fans on a night out at Roy Thompson Hall or Air Canada Centre. Kit Kat also caters to the appetites of the lunchtime crowd from the financial district, families exploring Ripley’s Aquarium to those attending the Metro Toronto Convention Center, as well as many other major attractions, including A-list downtown hotels.

Kit Kat owes its reputation to larger-than-life brothers Albert and John Carbone, born in the Niagara region and of Calabrian descent, whose signature Southern Italian dishes have awakened the palates of generations of Torontonians and visitors to the city for 30 years. From their sumptuous and hearty Osso Buco Milanese that’s the favorite of Little Stevie Van Zandt and the sinful Angelhair Basilico that Shania Twain always orders to Pink’s Mussels Arrabiata and Albert Carbone’s off-the-charts Penne with Spicy Italian Sausage that Steve (Bobby Baccala) Schirripa loved. Kit Kat is one of the few Toronto Italian restaurants to customize your dishes any way you want, whether it’s vegetarian or gluten-free. Deepak Chopra relishes in Kit Kat’s famous Indo-Italian coconut curried chickpeas and vegetable medley, Donald Sutherland always opts for a Black Bean Soup and 14-ounce Provimi Veal Chop and Keith Richards chooses the pasta-of-the-day every time he comes in.

Music legends from The Rolling Stones to Bruce Springsteen and Jay Z — and even Larry the Cable Guy have had had Kit Kat cater them when they’re in Toronto performing. Other celebrities that drop by the Kit Kat are: Billy Crystal and Steve Nash (they’re both into the Roast Lemon Chicken), Ron Howard, Howie Mandel, Marilyn Manson, Paul Simon, Sting, Duchess of York Sara Ferguson — and even theatre royalty Andrew Lloyd Weber, Joan Plowright, Cameron Macintosh have often been spotted at the eatery when they’re in town.

The restaurant has a Sardi’s of New York vibe, filled with bric-a-brac from all over the world and walls of signed celebrity photographs — and a wishing tree called the “tree of heaven” (Ailanthus Altissima) grows in the middle of the kitchen and up three floors through the roof. The Carbone brothers, along with Albert’s wife Cathy and son Max, say many wishes have come true under this tree and the restaurant has photos to prove it — from Brendan Shanahan celebrating with the Stanley Cup to Joe Tory and Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees and the World Series to two big-purse lottery winners from Niagara Falls.

Kit Kat is located at 297 King Street West, directly facing the Toronto International Film Festival TIFF Lightbox Theatre.

 Wine and Ice Cream Pairings

Baskin-Robbins is introducing its first-ever wine and ice cream pairings to give moms nationwide a fun way to celebrate Mother’s Day with two of their favorite things – wine and ice cream. In collaboration with Rosenthal – The Malibu Estate Wines, members of the Baskin-Robbins Culinary Team created unique wine and ice cream pairings featuring popular types of wine with delicious Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavors, including seasonal favorites for summer. Each pairing denotes the distinct flavors of each wine and ice cream flavor to create a new way to experience Baskin-Robbins ice cream with friends and family.

The Baskin-Robbins wine and ice cream pairings include:

  • Pinot Grigio or Grenache Blanc with Vanilla: A refreshingly indulgent combination, the buttery vanilla flavor of the ice cream brings out the crisp, green fruit notes in the wine.
  • Riesling or Gruner Veltliner with Pralines ‘n Cream: The praline pecan and caramel flavors in the ice cream pair well with the apple notes of the wine. The ice cream also helps to round out the fresh green notes of the wine.
  • Rosé with Rainbow Sherbet: The citrus and berry flavors in the sherbet bring out the floral, fruity notes in the wine.
  • Pinot Noir with World Class Chocolate: A world class ice cream with a world class wine. The silkiness of the ice cream complements the vanilla and fruit notes of the wine and rounds out the mouthfeel.
  • Chardonnay with Old Fashioned Butter Pecan: The sweetness of the ice cream complements the honey, buttery and oaky notes inherent in the wine.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon with Jamoca® Almond Fudge: The robust flavors of the cabernet bring out the nutty, coffee notes of the ice cream.
  • Sauvignon Blanc or Albariño with Raspberry Sorbet: The fresh raspberry flavor of the sorbet brings out the crisp accents and refreshing quality of the wine.
  • Merlot with Chocolate: A classic, indulgent flavor pairing. Chocolate rounds out the mouthfeel of the merlot, and the pairing is reminiscent of a chocolate-dipped red berry.

“At Baskin-Robbins, we always have a lot of fun coming up with new and creative ways for our guests to enjoy ice cream, especially during special times of the year such as Mother’s Day and our favorite season – summer,” said Katy Latimer, Vice President of Culinary Innovation at Dunkin’ Brands. “Our first-ever wine and ice cream pairings invite our guests, and moms especially, to treat themselves and celebrate life’s special moments in a unique way.”