I just spoke with Jeff Sinelli, head honcho of Dallas-based sandwich chain Which Wich and Burguesa Burger. Here is a snippet of our conversation about nutritional information and chain restaurants.
NN: Can you give me an idea of how much it would cost to have the ingredients of your sandwiches evaluated.
JS: We actually addressed this legislation a few years ago because we have stores in Seattle. My first response was to ask how big the fine was for not doing it because sometimes the fine is cheaper than doing it. I say that with half jest and half seriousness. It cost upwards of $20,000 to do the analysis on our menu. We have 105 stores so you factor that out and it isn’t much per store.
NN: What about other costs like reprinting menus.
JS: Well, we don’t get the volume discounts anymore because we haven’t rolled out the menu labeling in Texas. But the costs are more than printing the menus, you have to do research, there are webmaster fees for the internet and blogs if you have those to monitor. The Internet has really changed the restaurant business a lot.
NN: I’m not really against nutritional analysis but, to me, it takes a away a bit of the guilty pleasure associated with dining out. I quit drinking margaritas when I found out some of the larger margaritas in town have 600 calories in one.
SF: Yes it does take some of the fun out of it, doesn’t it? Some people have emailed me to find out how many calories are in a La Monumental [a huge burger served at Burguesa] and I was like if you have to ask you really don’t need to eat it. I think it needs to be the individual’s responsibility to decide what they are eating.
NN: Some Dallas restaurants that could get hit by this as they grow?
SF: Well, Mooyah, Tin Star, Dickie’s, Mi Cocina.
NN: What about relying on chefs or owners to come up with the calculations?
JS: Well, we used a dietitian. I figured if I’m doing it, I’m going to do the analysis right down to the filtration of the water—everything that goes into someone’s stomach. One good thing is we found out that 10 or 12 of our sandwiches were healthy. And as much as it was a labor cost for us, we actually learned a new way to market to our customers.