Monday, June 30, 2008

July fireworks

Can I pour you another cup of coffee? How about another plate of carbs, or maybe something sugary to keep you going? You’ll definitely need more than the usual oomph and sustenance to get through July, which should have been specially named for restaurateurs. National Eye Poke Appreciation Month, perhaps.

This, after all, is a stretch when the industry will experience more firsts than the freshman class at Party U. If only it were to be as much fun. Or even in the same range as a wolverine attack. Instead, the industry can look forward to unprecedented bans, mandates, cost hikes and marketing experiments.

Start with the first-ever ban of trans fats in restaurant baked goods, which takes effect as of 12:01 a.m. tomorrow in New York City, or, as the local board of health is determined to rechristen it, San Francisco-East. Folks in that famous West Coast pit of activism now look at the Big Apple and mutter, “Whoa, those folks are crazy. Where’d they come up with these laws?”

New York actually banned trans fat some time ago, but provided a grace period for baked goods because of the logistical problems. Some chefs say it’s hard to deliver the light, flakey quality you want in pie crusts or pastries without using trans-fat-rich shortening. If they haven’t figured out how to do it by now, they’ll hear about it from the health department starting tomorrow, though fines won’t be levied until October. It’s the city’s version of double-secret probation.

By that time, getting fined could have lost its novelty for New York’s chain restaurants. About 2,000 of them will be subject to financial penalties as of July 19 for failing to comply with the city’s calorie-disclosure requirement, another first-in-the-nation distinction. Early assessments of compliance levels suggest a lot of restaurants will be writing checks.

Of course, restaurants everywhere will be punching up the checks they cut on payday. On July 24, the federal minimum wage rises to $6.55 an hour, from the current $5.85.

That may be the most universal of the changes. Perhaps the most limited is the virtually overlooked menu-labeling requirement that takes effect tomorrow in Mississippi, which is to catfish what Iowa is to corn. Starting at midnight, restaurants with catfish on their menus will be required to let patrons know the origin of the fish. If it comes from Mississippi, the place can meet the requirement by erecting a sign or placard on the premises. But if it’s imported, that fact has to be pointed out on the menu, in the same font and type size as everything else.

Feature Mississippi catfish, and you have to post a sign. Feature another nation’s, and you have to reprint your menu. The impression of the state’s school system may be about to change.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous CookedApple RD said...

I do feel for the restaurants who need to have their menus reprinted and are pressed for time as is without turning things upside down with nutrition facts. The company that I work for (www.cookedapple.com) supports restaurants by making the process as easy as possible. Change may not be welcome, but it’s here.

July 1, 2008 at 12:40 PM  

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