Pressure on the catering industry to be transparent about the nutritional and calorific values of the dishes offered on menus is intensifying after one high street chain won praise in the national press for being the first to give breakdowns.
Pub brand Mitchells & Butlers is applauded in good Housekeeping magazine, among other publications, for printing the information on all menus at its 175 Harvester restaurants. Detailing the counts is a government encouraged voluntary initiative designed to have the foodservice industry help educate the public on what they are eating in a bid to encourage us to eat healthier and cut obesity rates.
With many other high street food chains agreeing to follow suit from this September, the independent sector is now coming under increasing scrutiny. Similarly, those in the schools and care sectors are also under added pressure to ensure their meals come up to scratch nutritionally. Schools have long had to face the issue of providing nutritional information with many still struggling to comply with the guidelines.
Meanwhile the reported increasing risk of malnutrition in the elderly will no doubt focus attention on monitoring their nutritional needs. Says Ken Knowland, Country Range group Managing Director: "It may not be a problem for the national chains and larger groups to provide nutritional and calorific breakdowns but for independents to do likewise, it can become a costly and time intensive exercise requiring further staff training. These costs then have to be met either by being swallowed up by the business or passed on to the customer.
Independent businesses operating in the cost sector, have to source and supply this information with no extra budgetary support and no option of passing the costs onto their customers."
To help with the issue, Country Range group has developed a web-based nutritional software programme for its customers called K2N, key to Nutrients. "K2N provides a complete nutritional analysis for recipes and menu plans, whether caterers input their own information, or build on the pre-loaded menu cycles. From complete stock control through to individual diary management, K2N gives caterers an easy to operate tool to put them firmly in control."