What’s the Secret for New FDA Labeling Requirement Compliance?

Chain restaurants in the United States will be required by FDA law to list calorie information on their menus. Unfortunately, many franchised restaurants will find it difficult to meet these requirements due to fragmented content systems. In fact, a recent FDA announcement noted that only five of the largest 66 chain restaurants have made the menu changes.

While recent legislation and another FDA announcement delaying enforcement from December 1, 2016, to the date that is one year after it issues its final guidance provide some flexibility, the new regulations are still forcing food and beverage brands and restaurant chains to evaluate old processes. While the law may seem like overreach on behalf of the government, consumers prefer to have easy access to nutritional information. Everybody eats food, and most want to know what exactly it is that they’re consuming. Franchised food service businesses can more easily comply with upcoming industry regulations — and meet changing customer preferences — with a centralized network of product information that allows for all players along the supply chain to gain access to the correct nutrition information.

The Food and Beverage Industry is Complicated

A chain restaurant is defined as one with more than 20 locations with the same name, which means that overhauling content can be incredibly complex given the sheer numbers of parties involved. What’s more, dealing with food, nutrition and ingredients is particularly complicated due to strict government regulations, health concerns among consumers and localized trends or preferences. And the FDA requirements are not just for menus. They’re for digital signage and other in-store marketing channels, including vending machines, which require an omnichannel overhaul. Even though new laws have been passed to ease up some of these restrictions, completing this accurately and on time will still be incredibly difficult for large restaurant chains. The raw content needs to be altered and put into different formats for each channel depending on the restaurant, which makes the entire process very complex without a system in place to master that complexity. What’s more, shifts in consumer preferences and needs — like gluten or dairy free — have caused consumers to want even more information about the foods they’re consuming. Additionally, weight loss diets come and go, and the science community continues to emphasize the health benefits of various food items. All of these factors of led to consumers becoming more interested in certain ingredients or nutrition information.

The Answer Lies with a Single View of Content

Many of the issues that come along with providing consumers with more nutritional information can be solved with a centralized enterprise content network — one that gives restaurants a single view of the required product information. As government regulations evolve, franchises can tap into this centralized resource to quickly compile the necessary images or content to make the required changes for each channel. This approach works to meet customer needs, too. With a centralized database, restaurant chains can then alter content to meet customer needs in a way that also aligns with industry regulations. So as diets, fads or science revelations changes, a chain restaurant could continue to alter its menu while meeting both customer needs and government requirements. The same goes for brands and retailers. Whole Foods, for example, might want to provide digital content in the store regarding recipes or cooking idea, and would need the right information from each brand or manufacturer in order to do so in a way that meets the FDA requirements. A centralized database of information would allow Whole Foods to complete this with ease and accuracy. So restaurants shouldn’t think of these requirements as a bad thing. Instead, think of it as a way to drive revenue and loyalty and offer a better experience for your customers. This concept doesn’t apply to restaurant chains only. Brands and retailers that manufacture and sell food products face similar regulations. With a centralized content system, it’s easy for brands, retailers or restaurant chains to make changes to menus and other promotional items in order to meet evolving customer needs and government requirements.