The First Lady’s Restaurant Agenda

For a very long time now, we’ve talked about the question of the First Lady and the relationship with restaurants. We’d mentioned that the restaurant industry was due for some potentially uncomfortable scrutiny from the president’s wife regarding nutrition issues. Sure enough, Ms. Obama has decided to move from targeting supermarkets and school lunches to directly targeting the restaurant industry to push for reform.

The New York Times recently reported that the National Restaurant Association has been in private talks with the First Lady to arrange to offer healthier options to children. So far, the recommendations have been preliminary and voluntary, however we should not underestimate the power of the office of the First Lady to put moral pressure on our industry to reform.

Already, Walmart has been moved to change its ways, offering healthier alternatives for lower prices at the behest of Mrs. Obama. She has also been using her bully pulpit to push for kids to start rejecting some of the unhealthy choices which we’ve seen for years on kids menus.

What is particularly interesting however is the fact that Mrs. Obama’s message has been co-opted by some people in the food industry and changed in subtle ways so as to make for a positive marketing message, highlighting the presence of certain healthy food choices in various food products which the First Lady had hoped to cast a shadow of doubt on.

This means that new labels may mention the fat content and sodium levels but they’ll also mention how a product contains extra calcium and vitamins, partially negating the message that a food isn’t necessarily good for you.

What this all means for our industry remains to be seen however as the situation is still very much in flux and as yet, no regulations have been forthcoming from the Federal Government.

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