Panera is Leading the Way with Calorie Facts on Menus

By , SparkPeople Blogger
The Panera Bread Company announced last Wednesday they will introduce new calorie containing menu boards.

Panera has willingly shared full nutrition information on their web site for a while. We used their information to share our Panera Bread Food on the Run review. Now in addition to complete product nutrition information, you can also find an online nutrition calculator to evaluate and customize choices before your next visit. So with their existing commitment to complete disclosure, why the need to change the menu boards?

New York was the first to require restaurants to post menu calorie content with Philadelphia and California not far behind. We shared over a year ago that the Yum Brands, Inc. fast food giant will post calorie counts on menus voluntarily across the country. The parent company of popular fast food chains such as KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Long John Silver's are on track to have calorie counts on menu boards of more than 3,200 corporately owned restaurants nationwide by January of next year.

Panera Co. plans to have calorie counts posted on their menu boards by the end of March of this year in their 585 corporately owned stores compared to the current 147 stores that already post the information. This would also include Saint Louis Bread Co. and Paradise Bakery & Café locations as well. There are an additional 1,380 franchise owned restaurants that will not be expected to immediately display the calorie information but Panera expects they will eventually follow suit.

The Bottom Line

Stanford Graduate School of Business researchers found when calorie content was posted in New York City Starbucks there was a 6 percent reduction in calories sold per transaction. Chief Concept Officer, Scott Davis, reports Panera has seen an increased interest in the "You Pick Two" options in those stores where calorie counts are currently posted. With a potential mandate for nationwide calorie disclosure for chain restaurants looming and the increased cost associated with producing different menu boards for corporate stores, it isn't hard to understand why Panera is jumping in to voluntarily get this information in place nationwide.

However, for many of us, only having immediate access to calories without protein, carbohydrates, fiber or sodium doesn't give us a complete picture to make an informed decision at the point of purchase. Also, most of us will not know if our local Panera is a corporately owned or franchise run establishment and if calorie information will be posted.

The bottom line -- If you want to make a fully informed calorie and nutrient wise decision when planning to eat at Panera, do your homework online before heading to your local restaurant.

What do you think about this decision by Panera? Does it change your views about Panera as a fast food option?