Wisconsin’s foodservice industry is doing its part to address the growing issue of health problems linked to overweight and obesity. Independently owned restaurants, chain operations, on-site foodservice managers and industry suppliers are responding to changes in what health-conscious customers want when they dine. The foodservice industry is providing healthier menu choices, helping to educate customers about variety and balance, working to combat obesity and supporting community approaches to good health.
Healthy Choices Dining Guide | Healthy Choices Resources & Tools | Restaurants Making a Difference | Menu Labeling | Frivolous Lawsuits | Fat Taxes | Negative Ad Campaigns
Healthy Choices Dining Guide
Many Wisconsin restaurants already offer a wide variety of healthy menu choices, and more are being added all the time. With the help of dietiticans and the Dane CAN program, WRA has developed a searchable Online Dining Guide with healthy categories to help customers find just what they’re looking for, from vegetarian options to entrees lower in salt.
||Broiled, baked, grilled or steamed meat, fish or poultry available
||Smoke free dining available
||Vegetarian choices available
||Substitute fruit or vegetable in place of higher fat side orders
(on regular and kids' menu)
||Low-carb choices available
||Entrée sharing at proportionate charge
||Sauces and dressings can be served on the side
||Low salt/no MSG
||Nutrition information is available for some menu items
||Skim or 1% milk available
||Egg substitute available
||Half or lighter portions of entrees available at proportionate
(Categories were developed with the input of dietitians and others involved in the Dane CAN program, supporting healthy lifestyles in Dane County.)
Search for restaurants with healthy choices
WRA Members: Enhance your Dining Guide listing for FREE! Simply click 'Edit Member Info' from the right-hand menu in Members Only to add Healthy Lifestyles Options to your restaurant listing.
Healthy Choices Resources & Tools
It is vital to show that restaurants can and will do their part in promoting healthier lifestyles. It’s our industry’s best defense against unwanted government mandates. A proactive response makes business sense, too, since healthier eating is a fast-growing consumer trend.
Healthy Lifestyles Initiative (Members Only)
Simply tell us which healthy lifestyle options your restaurant embraces and we’ll enhance your dining guide listing with our colorful icons and mail you a special tool kit including:
- Healthy lifestyles decal
- Source book of valuable information and practical tips
- Table tent promoting healthy dining choices
- Email Kate at WRA to learn more or sign up!
Healthy Lifestyle Brochure (PDF)
Download an informational brochure on 3 Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle to distribute to customers.
Legislative Action Center
WRA is committed to an ongoing effort to defend restaurants and foodservice establishments. Contact your elected officials about menu labeling and frivolous lawsuits or donate to the Legislative Education Committee (LEC) to help WRA continue to promote, protect and defend the food services and drinking places industry.
Restaurants Making a Difference
Barbara Behling, Former Director of Public Relations,
Culver Franchising System, Inc., Prairie du Sac
Culver’s is putting the finishing touches on an interactive website that allows customers to “build a product” and get detailed nutrition information for each item. For instance, you can find out how much calcium an extra slice of cheese adds, or see how many calories “holding the mayo” would save. “Making nutritional information available to guests fits into our culture of service,” says Behling. “It helps our customers make the right choices for their diet.” The company has also developed four brochures designed to educate customers on how they can enjoy Culver’s as part of their balanced lifestyle. They include Nutritional Information, an Allergen Guide, along with Balance and Choices brochures.
Dale Leffel, Belvedere Supper Club, Marshfield
Leffel has begun providing customers with health tips for the day, such as the benefits of certain vitamins or foods. He also points out that his large menu offers a variety of dietary choices. “It’s amazing how many people don’t realize what’s available to them,” Leffel says. “When you get a four-page menu, there’s a lot to read. Just ask questions.”
Jean Landreman, Landreman Family Restaurant, Kaukauna
Landreman was invited to a meeting on obesity for Outagamie and Winnebago counties. Organized by the local health department, the meeting included schools, hospitals and area businesses. Despite her initial nervousness, the group welcomed Jean and her unique industry insight. When menu labeling was discussed at a recent meeting, Jean spoke up about her concerns. She found most people hadn’t thought about how unworkable labeling would be for most restaurants. “People thanked me for coming,” she says. “It really helped that I was there to share our point of view.”
Linda Wendt, Wendt’s on the Lake, Van Dyne
Wendt recently photocopied the “3 Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle” brochure to hand out to customers. “The response was really positive,” Wendt says. “My customers appreciated the tips and it got them talking about lawsuits and labeling. I was pleased to learn that most wholeheartedly agree with my point of view!” Wendt has also posted signs that encourage customers to “ask about our healthy menu options.”
Restaurants would be required to provide detailed nutrition information for individual menu items, similar to the black and white labels found on retail foods. Think about how this would impact a restaurant’s ability to honor customer requests for substitutions, offer daily specials, or even print a readable menu!
Where does WRA stand on this issue? Mandatory menu labeling is a simplistic approach that would burden not only restaurants, but also the state and local entities charged with enforcement. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to create mandates that our diverse and complex industry can reasonably comply with, and it will be costly to enforce such mandates. Nutrition labeling itself isn’t a bad idea. As more customers grow interested in nutrition, demand for this type of information will increase. WRA encourages restaurants to voluntarily provide customers with as much nutrition information as they reasonably can. This might mean providing nutrition information for an entire menu, if practical and affordable. Or, it might mean labeling one or two entrees to start.
Update: Currently, four states and Washington D.C. have menu labeling legislation pending.
Frivolous lawsuits target food and the restaurants that serve it, as the cause of obesity. For example, someone who decides to sue McDonald’s because eating too many hamburgers caused unwanted weight gain. While such lawsuits have usually been dismissed, they are still costly and time consuming for food companies to defend against. To date, lawsuits have been filed only against major restaurant corporations. Still, lawsuits could also be filed against smaller establishments, making them a potential danger to our entire industry.
Where does WRA stand on this issue? Lawsuits do not solve the problem of obesity. American consumers know they are responsible for their own dietary choices, and they don’t want government or anyone else telling them what to eat. That’s why WRA introduced the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act to provide protection for restaurants and other food companies against such frivolous lawsuits. This bill was passed by both the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate, but was vetoed by Governor Doyle. WRA plans to reintroduce the measure next legislative session.
Update: 26 states have introduced legislation to protect restaurants from frivolous lawsuits. Laws have already been passed in 12 of these states. There is also federal legislation pending.
Sometimes called a Twinkie Tax, this is a sin tax on certain foods deemed “unhealthy.” Most proposals are similar to the taxes paid on cigarettes, which are ostensibly used to help pay for higher health care costs required by smokers. The foods most often targeted in these proposals are soft drinks and snack foods.
Most likely, this would be yet another tax for restaurants to track, report and submit, adding another layer of paperwork to our already overregulated industry. It is unclear whether foods prepared by restaurants would be included in the tax, or how this would be determined or enforced.
Where does WRA stand on this issue? WRA opposes additional regulatory burdens for our industry. Healthy lifestyle choices cannot be mandated, but can be encouraged through education about the importance of caloric balance, increased opportunities for physical activity, and increased availability of healthy food choices in restaurants and other environments such as schools and vending machines.
Update: Fat tax proposals have already been considered in California, New York and a handful of other states.
Negative Ad Campaigns
Billboards and television, radio and newspaper ads are increasingly being used to “fight the war on obesity.” The problem? Often the messages are simplistic: Restaurants are to blame. These ad campaigns portray all restaurants (not just quick service chains) as the bad guys, overlooking the fact that healthy food options can be found in virtually every establishment. Restaurants are unfairly singled out to take the blame for health problems related to overweight and obesity.
Where does WRA stand on this issue? WRA strongly opposes using taxpayer dollars to blame a single industry for the much larger problem of obesity. WRA strongly supports the idea of positive, educational campaigns, such as ads that encouraging caloric balance through moderate eating and physical activity.
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