What impact will the new health care law have on fast-food franchises? The law requires restaurant chains with 20 or more locations – that’s about 200,000 restaurants nationwide – to clearly label calorie counts for every item on the menu. Think about what that means. Suddenly, the Wendy’s Bacon Deluxe Triple Burger is no longer a satisfying meal, but a 1,140-calorie heart attack waiting to happen. The Food and Drug Administration has been charged with creating a new national standard for menu labeling. But, the Wall Street Journal points out that it will take time for the FDA to get its act together, and it will probably be three to four years before calorie counts start appearing on menus. The National Restaurant Association supports the requirement, saying it helps restaurants better respond to their customers, many of whom are now asking for calorie counts. But critics like New Jersey Restaurant Association say that menu labeling is just another unwanted cost for restaurant owners, and does not do anything to fight the nation’s obesity epidemic.
Health hazard. There’s nothing in the health care law about rogue fast-food employees hocking a loogie in your strawberry shake, but there should be. What’s even worse is when the offending employee brags about his heinous act on Facebook. Like the Burger King worker from Detroit who told the fast-food eating public, via his Facebook page, that they should avoid his place of employment because “we spit in your food for sh*ts and giggles”. This is a prime example about how the rise of social networking can harm a company’s brand even more than it can help it. The franchise operator, which owes 59 Burger Kings throughout Michigan, has taken the matter serious. It says the employee has since been interviewed by the police, and that the whole incident was only a joke and did not put customers at risk. Still, the damage is done. “’Whether it’s a joke or not, who’s to know what they do back there,” said one customer who will not be going back to that Burger King anytime soon.
Breakfast scramble. Subway is getting into the breakfast game, but it could be a matter of too little too late. Competitors like MacDonald’s have been serving a morning meal for years, and chains like Wendy’s and Taco Bell have introduced their own breakfast lineups. But Subway’s timing is highly problematic. Research firm NPD Group reports that the number of customers buying breakfast at fast-food restaurants slipped 2 percent in 2009, after years of double digit increases. Subway says all 23,000 U.S. restaurants will begin selling breakfast on April 5. The menu features “omelet sandwiches” with a choice of ham, bacon, steak, sausage, along with Subway’s traditional veggie toppings.