The Panera Bread on South University Drive will start posting item calorie counts on its menu boards today.
Linn Parrish, vice president of public relations, said Panera Bread is the first national restaurant chain to voluntarily post calorie counts on its menus across the nation. The motivation for publishing calorie counts initially came from the 2008 mandate in New York City for all restaurants to disclose the information. She said she thought other restaurants may make the same move toward transparency either voluntarily or by federal mandate.
Parrish said the decision would provide greater transparency to customers and give them the information they need in order to make healthy choices. Panera stores located in New York City, where all restaurants were required to disclose the information, did not see a drop in sales but rather saw a shift in the type of items sold, Parrish said.
“We saw that people who love the information use it,” Parrish said. “Those that don’t want (the information) don’t even see it.”
Stephanie Luce , a sophomore nutrition major, said businesses providing calorie counts for their customers would make more consumers pay attention.
“The demand for (calorie facts) is higher,” she said, adding that the public is becoming more health conscious. “(Businesses) have always had to have those facts available so if somebody wanted them they would be able to give them to them, but now that they’re there I think consumers are more likely to use them.”
Research shows customers take advantage of custom meal options at Panera Bread that include pairing items with smaller portions to create lower-calorie meals, Parrish said. The effort at transparency prompted corporate management to take a closer look at current menu items, nutritional content and ingredients.
Nutritional changes were made to some menu items to make them healthier without sacrificing taste, Parrish said. For example, she said, the Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich was changed to reduce calorie count and fat content.
Gina Jarman, an associate professor in the nutritional sciences department, said these types of policies could be beneficial to the average consumer in making healthy food choices. Most restaurants post nutritional information online or somewhere in the restaurant, she said, but customers are usually in a hurry and may not look for it.
“With the information directly in front of us, it will be difficult to ignore,” Jarman said. “This can help those who truly want to make better decisions.”
According to a corporate press release, all corporate-owned locations will be required to post nutritional information by April 2010. Corporate expects that franchise-operated locations will follow suit and post nutritional information by the end of 2010.
The Panera Bread located near campus on South University Drive, which is corporate owned, will post calorie counts on its menu boards starting today, the manager said. The manager declined to give his name.
Parrish said evidence suggested posting nutritional information would prove be financially successful for both corporate and franchise-orperated locations.
In addition to the calorie information on the menu boards, full nutrition information is available on the company’s Web site, www.panerabread.com, and in a binder available upon request, she said. Additionally, there is an interactive meal calorie calculator on the Web site so customers can customize their meals and determine calorie count by item ingredient.
Jarman said that although posting calorie counts on menu boards is a step forward, it would not solve the growing national problems of high obesity rates and chronic diseases associated with poor nutrition.
“Food labels are on most items in the grocery store,” Jarman said. “Plenty of junk foods still fly off of the store shelves.”
Calories for popular items:
690 calories in an Asiago Roast Beef on Asiago Cheese
720 calories in a Smokehouse Turkeyr on Three Cheese
860 calories in a Frontega Chickenr on Focaccia
1040 calories in an Italian Combo on Ciabatta
*Sandwiches listed are all full-sized