It’s starting to look like the whole thing about the QSR business going to digital menu boards, because of FDA regulations, is going away.
The QSR industry isn’t waiting on rules requiring that its menu-boards show calorie counts. Major operators are just going ahead and doing it.
Why that matters is the digital signage business has been nudging fast food operators to convert from printed menu boards to digital because that would better equip them to deal with displaying that additional, and perhaps shifting, information on the signs hungry diners used to make ordering decisions.
“I think consumers are looking for this, and with all the delays, they’re confused as to why it’s not out there,” says Lanette Kovachi, who leads Subway’s global nutrition efforts, quoted in the AP story.
Subway is doing that even though the US Food and Drug Administration has again delayed its final rules that would require food sellers with 20 or more locations to post nutritional information. The latest word is the “guidance” from the FDA won’t come available until at least some time in 2017.
Still, Subway isn’t alone in deciding not to wait for the federal rule to go into effect. Panera Bread began posting the information in 2010, and McDonald’s Corp. followed suit in 2012. The National Restaurant Association said that most companies are waiting for the final guidance from the FDA before posting the information.
Subway says it had already posted calories in about 4,000 stores in localities such as New York City that already require the information, as well as in California. And since January, it says it has been testing the new menu boards with calorie counts in another 7,000 restaurants.
The remainder of its stores should have the new menu boards by next week, the company said.
My take: The calorie count thing was a useful bit of Fear Uncertainty and Doubt to gently slip into pitches to QSR operators two or three years ago, but there are now so many restaurants that have made the conversion for other tangible reasons that I’m not sure the FDA situation is a thing anymore.
Businesses see competitors making the conversion, and there’s no end of white papers and case studies circulating that talk broadly about the benefits and hint at the bottom line impacts. So do we – the digital signage industry – need to care all that much about the glacial pace of the FDA?
Probably not. The shift is happening anyway, and the world’s biggest fast food chain doing it will undoubtedly be influential.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.