Consumer Awareness of Fast-Food Calorie Information in New York City After Implementation of a Menu Labeling Regulation

A study of consumer awareness of calorie information in New York City fast-food chains found that prominently posting calorie information in restaurants increases the number of people who report seeing the information and using it in their food choices.

In 2008, New York City adopted a regulation requiring restaurant chains to post calorie information on their menus and menu boards. The authors assessed the regulation’s impact on customers’ awareness and use of calorie information three months before and after the regulation's full enforcement. Data collectors outside three locations of each of 15 fast-food chains throughout the city administered surveys to customers leaving the restaurants.

Key Findings:

  • Seventy-two percent of respondents reported seeing calorie information post-enforcement, and 27 percent of those said that calorie information had affected their food choices.
  • The percentage of all customers reporting that calorie information influenced their food choices doubled from 10 percent pre-enforcement to 20 percent post-enforcement.
  • Menu boards were almost three times more effective at conveying calorie information than any other method.

Limitations on this study included the variable customer volume among chains; the possibility that customers choosing to participate may have differed from those who declined; and the relatively small number of locations selected for study.