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'Dine-formation' demand will grow, survey shows

Consumer demand for dine-formation, where restaurants make nutritional information available to diners, is set to grow, a trade survey suggests in the wake of the Food Standards Agency’s announcement of a pilot scheme to introduce calorie counting on menus.

The survey*, commissioned by catering IT specialist Fretwell-Downing Hospitality, targeted branded chains and multiples within the restaurant, hotel, pub, bar and retail catering sectors, with respondents representing more than 7000 dining outlets in the UK.

More than 60% of the eatery chains surveyed have seen increased customer demand for nutritional information to be made available on the meals they are served. A further 81% believe the demand will escalate, and this will be as much from consumers as from industry bodies such as the FSA.

However there was a distinct 50:50 split in survey numbers when it comes to restaurants having a strategy in place. Of those that are further down the line, 46% are doing so primarily to capture competitor advantage.

In practical terms, the majority intend having the food analysed either by sending samples away to a laboratory or using nutritional analysis software.

While almost two-thirds stated they would display the nutritional information on their printed menus, 37% would also look to publish the dine-formation on their website while others would consider producing a separate sheet of data available on request.

The overriding conundrum for the restaurant trade is knowing what type of information and the quantity of data that should be made available, the survey found.

Andrew Markwell, FDH’s sales director commented: “The survey is a snapshot of how many of the big hitters in the restaurant trade are approaching this challenge. It’s interesting that a proportion, while they’re fully aware of the issue, still seem to be hanging back to see how the situation develops while others are moving further ahead to try and gain a competitive advantage.“

*The survey of 32 restaurant chains was carried out in November and December 2008 by Redpoint Research.

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