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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2018 / May 

Mandatory national menu labeling underway. While it is a good start, restaurants could voluntarily do much more, according to Virginia Tech expert

May 7, 2018

Image of Vivica Kraak
Vivica Kraak, assistant professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

The Food and Drug Administration will begin mandatory calorie labeling for chain restaurants across the United States on May 7, 2018. While this is an important step, restaurants could do much more to create the tipping point to encourage healthy options for Americans when they eat out, says to Virginia Tech professor Vivica Kraak, a recognized expert in food and nutrition policy.

Kraak points to limited progress made by the U.S. restaurant sector in its effort to promote healthy and profitable menu choices. “Quick-service restaurants, fast-casual and full-service restaurant chains are not yet fully committed to change industry-wide practices that contribute to poor diet quality, obesity and related chronic diseases,” said Kraak.

The National Restaurant Association projects food-service business sales to exceed $551 billion, representing about 48% of household income spent on food.  Every week, nearly two thirds of adults visit quick-service restaurant chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King, and 40 percent visit fast-casual restaurants such as Panera and Chipotle.”

Research findings: marketing mix and nudge strategies

Kraak calls on the National Restaurant Association and its members to use comprehensive marketing and nudge strategies to encourage customers to make healthy choices.  Along with a team from Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise (HNFE), Kraak’s research urged restaurant businesses to adopt a marketing-mix and choice-architecture (MMCA) framework, dubbed the 8 Ps.  The approach involves restaurants using many strategies to promote healthy foods and beverages through ambience and atmospherics; improving the nutritional profiles of products to reduce calories, sodium and fat; and standardizing and reducing portion sizes to offer 600 calories or less for kids’ meals and 700 calories or less for adult meals.

It also involves restaurants using proportionate pricing, adopting responsible marketing practices for children and teens, establishing healthy default side dishes and beverages such as water or low-fat milk, using priming or prompting to encourage healthy choices through labelling, and positioning healthy products at the start of buffets or at arms reach or eye level near cash registers.

Read Vivica Kraak’s background

To secure a live or recorded interview with Vivica Kraak, contact Bill Foy by email, or by phone at 540-998-0288.

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