Diners can count their own calories

11 August 2004
Diners can count their own calories

What do your customers really want? A restaurant with a nice ambience? A broad food offering? Well-sourced and well-cooked food? Reasonably priced menus? Great service? Attractive decor? And location's important.

Most diners would no doubt tick most of the above. But apparently that's not enough. According to the restaurant website, www.toptable.co.uk, diners would also like to see calorie counts next to each dish.

Yes, 81% of subscribers who responded to a survey conducted by "the UK's largest online restaurant and party booking service" said they wanted to know the calorific value of the meals they chose.

Naturally, some quarters of the industry have responded to this request with complete contempt - and rightly so. There is enough pressure to give explicit details of dishes to protect those who suffer from food allergies. That makes sense: with serious allergies, people's lives are at threat. There's also enough pressure on the industry to provide healthy options for adults and children to counter obesity. And that's fair enough, too.

I can even understand diners wanting to know where the produce they are eating comes from - there have been enough expos‚s on TV to make us all suspicious of the food-manufacturing world. But expecting restaurants to count our calories - and, let's face it, this information is included in the back of any diet book worth its salt - is simply preposterous. If someone is watching their weight, for health or vanity reasons, is it not their responsibility to choose carefully in order to meet their diet's requirements?

And what's next? Perhaps restaurants should also be expected to list the number of calories burned off when you make a trip to the loo - then diners would know whether they can squeeze in that much-coveted pud.

How can a restaurant which changes its menu daily, for example, be expected to add another few hours to its already longer-than-average day to calculate the calorie content of dishes? Staff would need training, and the information would have to be quantified by a nutritionist to ensure the figures were right.

Can you imagine the furore if someone's diet went pear-shaped because they claimed they were misled by the calorific content given on a restaurant menu? Transport this situation to the USA and you'd probably have a lawsuit on your hands.

Med veg secrets Ever wondered - and cursed - why your ratatouille or grilled Mediterranean veg don't quite taste like they did on that working trip to Italy or Spain last year? It could be down to sourcing the right varieties of tomatoes, aubergines or courgettes. We sent Michael Raffael along to Covent Garden for a chat with chef-turned-supplier Philip Britten about the best types of Med veg to use on your summer menu.
Joanna Wood, Chef Editor
In the pink How did the man behind the Mean Fiddler Group go from being a furniture dealer to a multimillion-pound restaurant, bar and music events operator? We meet Vince Power, the unassuming chief executive officer of the group, as he opens his latest London bar, and find out why, with the right product, there's plenty of money to be made from the pink pound.
Helen Adkins, Restaurants & Bars Editor

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