Date of Award
Master of Science
Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management
Carol Costello, Youssri Allam
The purpose of this research was to investigate what effect current and proposed regulations of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 would have on independent restaurant operations in the state of Tennessee. A rule proposed in June of 1993 will expand the NLEA to include restaurant menus.
The sample was identified and selected from the population of independent restaurateurs in the state of Tennessee who were members or were eligible for membership in the Tennessee Restaurant Association (TRA) and operated ten units or less. Cities with populations greater than 25,000 were used to stratify the sample due to research suggesting that consumer demand for nutritionally oriented items is greater in urban areas than in rural settings (Huss & Gilmore, 1995). Questionnaires were sent to either the owner or general manager. Analyses were performed to describe the demographic profile of the respondents; current practices regarding the provision of nutrition information; awareness, effect and knowledge of the current and proposed regulations; the potential method of compliance; and estimated compliance costs. Also five research hypotheses were investigated. A 25% response rate was realized, all returned surveys were used for data analysis.
Seventy-eight percent of the respondents reported total food sales from items identified with nutrition information between 0% - 10%. This may reflect that sales data are not monitored according to this classification. A large proportion of the sample (72%) reported that they do not use nutrition information to "promote" food items, yet over 50% of those responding negatively to this went on to indicate that one or more of the nutrition terms listed on the survey were used in the restaurant. A majority (83%) of the respondents also reported that they were not aware of the current NLEA regulations or the menu proposal prior to the survey. A corresponding proportion (87%) reported experiencing no effect from the NLEA, and exhibited a low knowledge level regarding details of the regulations (≥93%). The most common sources of nutrition information to base nutrition claims on were suppliers and food labels. Information provided by the service staff was the most common location for nutrition statements. Five percent reported that they were already in compliance, 31% indicated they would comply by either substantiating existing claims, or revising menus to include claims, 40% indicated that they would comply by not making nutrient content or health claims in their establishment, and 2% stated they would include nutrient values without making any claims. Sixty-six percent reported being unable to estimate the total costs of compliance with this legislation, while 16% estimated it would be less than $250 dollars.
The high level of negative responses regarding use of nutrition information in the sample indicate that this issue is not a great concern, or is not in great demand by the patrons of these establishments. It is further indicated that the current regulations and proposal to include restaurant menus into the Act will not have a substantial impact on the responding establishments as long as compliance can be achieved by refraining from making nutrient content or health claims. Further research is needed to determine the consumer demand for nutritionally oriented items, the staff training regarding nutrition issues, and the practice of monitoring sales according to nutrition labeling in these establishments.
Gattis, Katherine D., "Effect of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 on Independent Restaurants in Tennessee. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 1996.