Extra regulatory measures imposed on restaurants to meet the government’s new obesity strategy could not come at a worse time, UKHospitality has said.
As part of the government’s new plan to slim down the nation, ministers plan to introduce legislation forcing restaurants and takeaways with more than 250 employees to add calorie labels to their menus to assist diners in making more informed choices.
But UKHospitality has warned that this could cost as much as £40,000 per menu run for some businesses.
“We are genuinely keen to work with government to address obesity but the extra regulatory and cost burdens of measures like menu labelling could not come at a worse time,” said chief executive Kate Nicholls.
“Hospitality has played its part in lockdown, feeding and accommodating vulnerable people and key workers. Now, as we focus on securing jobs and helping the economy and communities to recover, a raft of costs and regulatory burdens would be a slap in the face.”
Mrs Nicholls said Britain’s eating out sector had made great strides in providing healthier and lifestyle choice options on their menus, responding to consumer demands and nudging healthier behaviour, citing the rapid growth of catering for veganism as an example.
“Cooking from scratch is what restaurants do every day, and it’s how many of them manage to keep their offers attractive, with changing daily specials and locally-sourced seasonal dishes.
“Menu labelling could cost as much as £40,000 per menu run for some businesses, disincentivising such innovative and sustainable approaches, and stifling the efforts to offer exciting and healthy meals to customers.”
Mrs Nicholls said a well-intentioned targeting of child obesity is “at risk of evolving into an interventionist approach that heaps burdens on hospitality businesses just when they are at their most vulnerable and fighting for survival”.
She added: “At-risk sections of society need specific targeting but the most constructive approach with most of society is to provide effective and credible tools to allow people to make informed decisions about their lifestyles, nutrition and exercise, from as early an age as possible.
“The sector is keen to play an active and positive role in helping to deliver and support initiatives in schools, to better communicate the benefits of healthy cooking and eating – there is simply no question that education has an enormous role to play in reducing obesity in the long term.”