Does Posting Calories Make a Difference?

You may recall that New York City began requiring fast-food restaurants to post calorie counts alongside all of their menu items. The city's thinking, ...
by | October 28, 2009

You may recall that New York City began requiring fast-food restaurants to post calorie counts alongside all of their menu items. The city's thinking, obviously, is that you may re-think ordering that extra cheese if you know the burger you're ordering already has 800 calories.

But does the strategy work?

A few weeks ago, a study by New York University and Yale found that the calorie count of an average meal had actually increased since the law went into effect in July 2008. Prior to the labeling, the mean count of fast-food orders was 825 calories. Now, it's 846. And only about half the people even noticed the calorie counts at all.

But now the city has done its own survey, with more promising results.

It's much bigger (22,000 people versus the NYU/Yale study's 1,100), and it seems to indicated that calorie counts have gone down in the past year. From New York magazine:

Though only 15 percent of customers used the calorie information, they ended up ordering 152 fewer calories at hamburger chains and 73 fewer calories at sandwich chains compared to those who didn't (56 percent of customers never saw the postings).

USA Today also notes that according to the study, the calories purchased dropped at nine chains, including significant drops at McDonald's, KFC, and Starbucks (keep in mind, though, that chains like KFC have introduced lower-calorie options such as [...] grilled chicken [...].

Zach Patton  |  Executive Editor
zpatton@governing.com  | 

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