Opinion Piece: My “tuppence-worth” re. Calories on Menus

As someone who eats out, I am incensed at our Minister for Health saying that putting a calorie count on menus will combat and bring down the level of obesity in Ireland.  I don’t believe that “95% of customers want to see calories displayed on menus”.

Incensed, yes, as he seems to think that no one can tell the difference between eating at a restaurant, or grabbing a burger & chips from a take-away.  Now, before anyone starts ranting, there is a huge difference between a menu which changes daily and seasonally, and one which never changes, year-round.  Those menus don’t take account of customer’s needs or preferences, and no amount of re-printing of menus will ever reflect that.

If this proposed legislation is implemented, it will see a huge decline in our well established (independently owned) restaurants, and, indeed, hotel-based restaurants, headed up by amazing Chefs and staff.

My family and I discussed this issue over dinner (at home!) this evening, and it spilled out over twitter, when The Friendly Farmer blogged about this very subject.

I have many friends who own and run restaurants, and we see, at first hand, how hard it already is, to run a business in these difficult times. The cost of calculating and re-printing menus is exhorbitant, and, as discussed with another Restaurateur, Copper & Spices, in Navan, a cost many cannot meet.

There are so many variables to cover, i.e. customer preferences and requests with regard to menu changes to suit.

As I said on Twitter, it is unworkable, and will serve no purpose but to push restaurants to the wall, and drive customers out.  The chain restaurants are the ones which need to be targeted, as in the U.S., as their menus never change, with regard to portion sizes and seasonality.  As Ms. Carmel Corrigan (co-owner of Copper & Spices in Navan) so rightly said, it would see the demise of Amuse Bouche, and Specials on a menu.

I think it would curb any Chef’s originality and creativity, as they would have to stick to a strict formula.

As someone who loves to eat out, and discover new restaurants and cuisines, it leaves me at a crossroads.  I love menu “specials” , and seeing Chefs push the boundaries to entice customers in, whilst at the same time, pushing their own creativity, and  giving diners an amazing culinary experience.

If the legislation goes ahead, what will become of food markets and suppliers, who depend on restaurant business?

I am not stupid, and, as a discerning diner and customer, I know which dishes are “healthy” and which are “indulgent”.  I don’t eat out every day, and who does?  I see more unhealthy options in supermarket trolleys and despair at the contents.  At the same time, that is that person’s choice, and they too can choose what they want to buy and eat.

I am tired of the “Nanny State” which exists in Ireland.  I can choose for myself, thank you, and I don’t need a calorie-count to “help” me.

On another note, maybe if our Minister for Health concentrated on the rubbish which passes as “food” and handed out to patients in Irish Hospitals, his time and effort would be better spent.

These are my opinions, have you any to add?