Perspective on Health Care Reform and Dallas Restaurants: Jeff Sinelli

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.

19 comments on “Perspective on Health Care Reform and Dallas Restaurants: Jeff Sinelli

  1. I do not understand why you are beating this dead horse. Possibly trying to generate “news”. Make us all fear that health care reform is going to close every restaurant in town. Fear is what modern journalist republican or democrat sell these days right? Mr Sinelli seems to have summed it up in his interview “I think it needs to be the individual’s responsibility to decide what they are eating.” Which leads to the necessity of having all the information to make an informed decision instead of trying to guess exactly how much fat, sugar, and salt are in the foods we eat. I mean if Mr Sinelli did not know he had 10 or 12 healthy sandwiches what chance does the average consumer have of making valid informed choices?

  2. how is she beating a dead horse? i was interested on hearing a restaurant owners opinion. Thanks NN!!

  3. This confuses me:

    “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.”

    Providing nutritional info results in additional webmaster fees?

  4. “Providing nutritional info results in additional webmaster fees?”

    Almost all restaurants have their menus posted online now. So yeah, webmaster fees.

    In the end is still won’t matter one bit from a healthcare perspective. Fat people will still eat like crap. middle-weight people will still fluctuate between dieting and overeating. Healthy people won’t need to see the stats because they already know, and care about, what they should and should not be eating.

    It’s just going to cost some people/businesses a lot of money for no good reason. Of course, it provides people like CollinR a stage to rant from (and me too).

  5. I wonder if Mr. Sinelli’s restaurants are members of the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association. If so, he could get his menu analysis for free with there partnership with Medical City Heart’s Restaurant Partner Program. That could save a chunk of change.

  6. very generous of Mr. Sinelli to answer the questions so forthrightly. Very interesting, thanks Nancy.

  7. At a place like Which Wich it would seem like an exponential nightmare to try to come up with nutrition info.

  8. Your one complaint is the buzzkill of your “Guilty pleasure” of eating out??? ARe you kidding me??? Don’t read the nutrional content!! But, some of us, who actually eat out consistently because it is cheaper than cooking for one and tossing old food, wants to know what we are putting in our bodies. I actually don’t want to frequent a place that doesn’t know what they are feeding me and I sure as heck think a “well, if you have to ask you shouldn’t eat it” attitude is the most ridiculous nimcapoop I have ever heard. HOW ABOUT, if YOU Mr. Restuarant Man don’t know what the heck you are putting into the fod you are serving your customers, you don’t SELL it.

  9. /food

    I’m annoyed. You and Glenn Hunter can link your articles together about these “imagined” catastrophes that are going to occur now that the HCR Bill has passed.

    Catch that part Glenn and Nancy, it passed. Get over it. Stop serving up your Fear with a side of Imagined.

  10. Do you think Which Wich or any other restaurant thinks twice about increasing their prices because of the costs involved in printing menus, “webmaster fees for the internet and blogs if you have those to monitor?”

  11. Q: “Providing nutritional info results in additional webmaster fees?”

    A: Almost all restaurants have their menus posted online now. So yeah, webmaster fees.

    Good lord. This is why they invented content management systems. If it’s costing tons of money to put nutritional info on a website, something a webmaster or business owner could do in 20 minutes, these restauranteurs need better business advisors.

  12. Those webmaster fees must be exorbitant if they already spent the $20K to analyze the menu but there’s still no nutritional info to be found on their website.