Our approach is guided by three core principles:
- Choice & Variety in menu options
- Transparency to ensure guests have easy access to the nutritional information they want
- Innovation & Collaboration to identify new ways to meet guests’ evolving needs
Improving the Nutritional Profile of our Menus
In 2011 we made a first-of-its kind commitment in our industry to improve the overall nutritional profile of our menus. Working with the Partnership for a Healthier America, we committed to reduce the overall calorie and sodium footprints of our menus by 10% by 2016 and 20% by 2021, and we are making excellent progress toward those goals.
We also committed to enhance the nutrition credentials of our children’s menus – a commitment we met in 2012 when we released new children’s menus. Fruits or vegetables are now the default side, 1% milk is promoted and soda is no longer displayed on our children’s menus – changes made to help make the healthy choice the easy choice. In addition, at least one children’s menu option meets specific criteria regarding calories, sodium and fat.
We have invested considerable resources in enhancing our nutrition analysis capabilities, which is critical to helping us refine our menus as we work to meet our nutrition commitments. Additional steps we are taking to work toward our commitment include adding new items that are relatively lower in calories and sodium, discontinuing certain dishes, and reformulating and resizing dishes. Of course, our team of culinary experts will work to ensure these changes never sacrifice the delicious taste of the food we serve, and that our guests continue to find the dishes they know and love at their favorite restaurants.
Making Menu Labeling a Success
Darden has long supported uniform, national restaurant menu labeling legislation and was actively engaged in the dialogue to develop the final regulations, which were released at the end of November 2014. We believe that adding calorie content to menus is an important step to empower Americans when they eat away from home.
Bringing calories onto menus nationwide is one of the most meaningful steps in nutrition disclosure since the Nutrition Facts Panel was introduced on packaged food products over 20 years ago. Research has shown that consumers will benefit most from menu labeling if they understand what calories are, how many they need, and how they can put the information to use.
Ensuring Accurate Information
While we have offered nutrition information on our websites and mobile apps for years, adding calorie content to menus is an important step to empower our guests when they eat away from home. At Darden, we take great care in generating accurate nutrition information for our guests. Nutrition information can never be exact given the hand-crafted nature of what we serve but consumers can feel confident using the calorie numbers on our menus to guide their choice because:
- We have clearly-defined product specifications for all of our ingredients;
- We devote substantial resources to design and deploy standardized recipes and food preparation procedures to be used in each of our restaurants;
- Our restaurants are equipped with the tools needed to properly weigh and measure for accuracy – such as scales, scoops, and ladles;
- We provide ongoing training for our restaurant staff to ensure quality and consistency in our recipe preparation; and
- Each menu item undergoes a rigorous process to arrive at a caloric value that is reflective of the recipe being served – using both calculated and chemical analysis methods.