I just returned from the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago and what a huge event! While there, I noticed the increase in technology companies all looking to better serve restaurant operators through innovation and education.

I had a lot of discussions at the show about several ways technology solutions can help restaurant operators keep their menus up-to-date and accurate, especially with the new menu labeling requirements. While a lot has been written about menu labeling, not a lot has been discussed on how technology can reduce the risk of menu labeling compliance among restaurant operators.

The technology that fuels digital menu boards and ordering kiosks within restaurant locations today is being used to maintain nutritional disclosures in real time. This means that any time a restaurant operator needs to make a change, it can be done on the back-end in a matter of seconds and all with the touch of a button.

During the NRA Show, I had a great conversation with Rich Ventura, the VP of business development and sales from our digital partner, NEC Display Solutions of America. This was his stance on the use of digital menu boards and their impact on menu labeling compliance:

“Switching to digital technology in restaurants has provided operators with many benefits, especially now with the FDA menu labeling requirements,” he said. “Flexibility is one of the major benefits. Not only can the content be managed easily, but digital allows you to include attention-grabbing graphics and content. Instead of static messaging to encourage customers to make a purchase based on nutritional or other needs, restaurants can engage customers with dynamic efforts. Going digital also allows brands to easily create consistent messaging across all stores. These messages can tie into the marketing of menu items with a specific nutritional value or gluten-free products.”

Rich’s observations are right on with how I’ve seen restaurant operators use digital menu boards and this same idea is true for concepts that use ordering kiosks at their locations. Menu items and nutritional information can be displayed on the screen, giving consumers the chance to see the item, its nutritional content and then make their ordering decision from there.

As in the case of both digital signage and ordering kiosks, the screens can be used to promote specific menu items and display their nutritional content, all in one place and in real time. In reality, the possibilities are endless.

We use our own proprietary technology to keep our clients’ nutritional information safely and accurately calculated, and it amazes me how much emerging technology is making it easier for food service providers to easily display that same information. Digital menu board technology lets restaurant operators seamlessly add or subtract menu items and list their caloric content, without any interruption to what gets displayed on the screen that the customer can see. This makes me extremely happy to see because it is so important that restaurant operators stay in compliance with menu labeling laws.

Operators should continue to navigate the changing world of menu labeling and its impact on their business because it can be used as a tool to make their jobs better and more efficient. Technology changed my life for the better when I launched for MenuTrinfo and I will forever be a proponent of its ability to change how we do business. Operators who embrace this technology are well-positioned to successfully flip the fear on menu labeling. Betsy Craig

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