On the menu: a look at the numbers

As I began to write last month’s article about menu labeling,I thought it would be easy to include examples of what pizzaconcepts should do to properly analyze their pizza and figureout the details of the pieces and parts. However, in my researchto see what’s out there among the leading pizza concepts forcalorie counts, nutritionals and how to configure a simple pizza,I found that the current situation is anything but simple. I wasquite surprised by the lack of standardization; evidently, thisprocess is more difficult than it looks, and various kitchens havecome up with various procedures. The confusion and variancemost likely arises from people making their best efforts, and notfrom any deliberate attempts at deception.

Setting Industry Standards

Current proposals from the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) would require calorie counts to show one serving as equalto an entire pizza. However, since there is no industry-standardserving size yet, I uncovered a clear trend that represents convergence.A “standard regular crust” that’s 14” in diameter, withmoderate amounts of sauce and cheese added, is the baselinereference, and the nutritionals are fairly easy to compute (evenby hand!). Slice the finished pie into eight pieces, and you candeclare one slice to be one serving. The listed per-serving data istherefore 1/8 of the whole pie. This appears to be a reliable commonpractice for the industry to pursue in the near future. Obviously,this formula ignores the complexity of different toppingsand combinations, but we have to start somewhere.

I created the table on the previous table to compare the variousmethods of how leading pizza concepts report their nutritionaldata; you’ll see that most of them follow the 14” standardintroduced above.

Papa Murphy’s Pizza (papamurphys.com) calls a serving 1/10of a pie (the family size), and those per-slice numbers still comeout relatively high. I’m not sure how many slices I personally cutfrom a PM pizza, but I do not think one would fi l me up or feellike a full serving. Also, for CiCi’s Pizza (cicispizza.com), the servingsize is 1/10 of a 15” pizza. Once again, that seems like a small(and not quite credible) slice for the average adult.

For me, the Domino’s Pizza (dominos.com) nutritional informationwas by far the hardest to figure out; it listed every singlepart of the pizza as a separate item. Even with a calculator, it wasdifficult. The information lists everything numbered out for anentire pizza, but calls a serving 1/8 of a medium pizza, so you haveto add everything up and then divide by eight to determine perservinginformation.

What’s a Serving?

It would help the entire industry if the people who analyze pizzerias’menus and nutritionals all played by the same rules. Forme, as a consumer, at most of the concepts I looked at for thisarticle, it would take a few slices to constitute a full serving andsatisfy without being gluttonous. The FDA does have serving
sizes and regulations for the retail end of the industry, and Ithink adopting those same regulations for restaurants is the bestpractice for pizza restaurants and their customers. (If you’re interestedin learning more, Google “FDA RACC.”)

Even for industry segments with well-known container sizes,there’s a lot of room to transform the numbers. For example, thebeverage industry has a history of making the per-serving numberslook good by listing a serving size as “X ounces” with multipleservings per container, such as “2.5 servings” per container.Maybe this is the new math, but it seems unnecessarily complex.

I’ve been around a number of great industry people duringthe last few weeks and had many different conversations one-on-onewith owners, operators and others who have a stronginterest in the continued success of their chains. It becameabundantly clear to me that most, if not all, want to do the rightthing: present the numbers clearly, honestly and with the utmostconfidence.

It was also clear that most concepts are challenged by tryingto know how to properly provide this source of information.And that’s where a trained staff member or hired service will beworth their weight in mozzarella!

Today’s diners are much more informed and knowledgeableabout nutrition. They will request your numbers, and if theysee results that seem too good to be true, they’ll know theyare just that. Plus, you can win more loyal customers throughtransparency and accuracy. Above all, my advice: For anythingyou put your name on, you need to be ready to stand behindit—even a calorie count. It’s part of your brand, your conceptand your reputation, so this is not the area to pinch pennies.

Betsy Craig is the owner of MenuTrinfo, a full-servicesolution for menu analysis. She can be reached at 888-767-6368 or through menutrinfo.com.