Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Franchise Owners Make Noise over NJ Calorie Law

CBS News reports that the New Jersey Senate passed a new calorie law. The calorie law would require chain restaurants in New Jersey to post the number of calories in a product right on the menu. The calorie food count measure requires all restaurants with at least 20 locations nationwide to comply with the new law. The bill would not apply to salad bars or buffets.

While the bill applies only to chains and not small businesses, franchise owners make up a part of the small business owner population. They are probably not going to be happy with this new calorie law. 

The penalties for non-compliance range from $50-$100 for a first time offense and then increase to $250-$500 for future offenses.

The law is intended to help consumers make smarter food choices by arming them with calorie food count facts. According to Philly.com, this is not the first time a legislative body has addressed this issue. New York City was the first jurisdiction to introduce a calorie law last year. It was followed by California followed in July, Maine, Massachusetts, and Oregon. Similar measures are being considered in 20 states and localities to date. Philadelphia is planning to enact a similar law in 2010.

While these laws are intended to improve and empower consumers' choices, there are a lot of restaurant owners who protest that the calorie law would place undue burden on them.

Rena Levine Levy, owner of Windmill Hot Dog Restaurants, owns 8 locations in the state of New Jersey. While she is not impacted by this calorie law, she still tells CBS News: "I think that some people will pay attention to it. I don't think that obese people will pay attention to it. I don't advocate you eat that every day, but food can be fun."

She claims that the bill will not help with obesity and she worries that the bill will only hurt businesses who make their living off of high calorie fast foods.

While the law applies to restaurant chains, there are plenty of small business entrepeneurs who own franchise chains. These franchise owners worry that the law will eat into their profits.

Philly.com spoke with George Ebinger who has three IHOP franchises. Since IHOP requires that menus can not be more than six pages long, he worries he has to get rid of items in order to make room for the calorie counts on his menus. He told Philly.com that he worries that if his regulars don't their favorite items on his menus, that they will eat somewhere else.

While franchise owners are worried, perhaps they can find comfort in a recent NYU study that found that in spite of the calorie law in New York City, the average consumer ordered 846 calories per order. It turns out people love their guilty pleasures in the form of fast food.

For more information, please visit our Related Resources.

Related Resources: