Pizza players head to Washington over menu labeling

Members of the American Pizza Community descended upon Capitol Hill today to make their case for greater flexibility when it comes to the impending menu labeling law.

The law as it's written now requires restaurant chains with 20 or more units to prominently display caloric information on menu boards in each store. However, according to the Washington Post, the APC is arguing that this makes little sense for the pizza segment, which yields 90 percent of all orders from the phone or online.

The APC also is arguing that the law unsatisfactorily addresses the challenges posted by customizable or "variable menu items" such as pizza. For example, according to Domino's CEO Patrick Doyle, there are more than 34 million ways to order a pizza at his company.

The APC, formed earlier this year, includes member companies such as Domino's, Godfather's Pizza, Hungry Howie's, International Pizza Hut Franchise Holders Association, Little Caesars and Papa John's Pizza, among others. Collectively, they employ more than 400,000 U.S. employees in stores in all 50 states.

The group's main objective is to advocate for policies that affect pizza companies and operators of all sizes on a range of issues, in addition to menu labeling flexibility.

Today's visit to Capitol Hill is the APC's first effort toward such advocacy. However, the menu labeling issue has been contentious since its parent bill – the Affordable Health Care Law – first passed in 2010.

The National Restaurant Association has repeatedly filed comments asking for more flexibility, and Doyle penned a letter to Thehill.com last year addressing the law's affect on the pizza segment specifically.

Doyle agrees that restaurants should give consumers nutritional information, however he said the government should be flexible with the law that he calls "a one-size-fits-all approach that will be both expensive to implement and ineffective."

The proposed regulations would require franchises to provide calorie information on in-store menu boards, a mandate which would cost each store thousands of dollars every year, starting at $1,600 and going up to $4,700 per year, according to Doyle.

As for the variable nature of pizza, the proposal is currently written that when a diner has a choice that will affect the caloric information, it should be listed in a range – minimum possible calories included to maximum possible calories included.

Margo Wootan, a director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the Washington Post that pizza chains will only need to list calories for the items chosen to appear on menu boards — not for every possible pizza combination. She added that the pizza players' issues being presented today are not different from other segments in the restaurant industry.

Many readers seem to agree, stating that combination-heavy chains such as Chipotle or Subway have either not protested against the law or have already complied with menu labeling.

PizzaMarketplace.com editor Alicia Kelso discussed the "Battle of the Slice" this morning on NPR's Marketplace Morning Report with Jeremy Hobson and Jeff Horwich.

The interview is available here.

Read more about operations management.

 

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