Freshii (FRII.TO) is going to post calorie counts on its menu boards, even though the company’s CEO believes the info ‘doesn’t tell the full story.’
The ‘healthy fast food’ chain had resisted a government regulation that caloric information be displayed in-store, but bowed to pressure on Tuesday stating it would ‘meet the minimum compliance as required’.
Freshii CEO Matt Corrin told BNN on Wednesday that the company is willing to work with the provincial government to find a solution that fits.
“We should start a dialogue. I think the law wasn’t created for our brand. I get why they did it, it’s a step in the right direction,” he told BNN.
Ontario’s Healthy Menus Choices Act has been in effect since Jan. 1, 2017. Corporate fines for non-compliance first offences can reach up to $5,000 per day.
Corrin says he’ll comply in the interim, if only to avoid the fines.
“We’re not going to be martyrs,” he told BNN. “We’re not here to start paying fines. That’s not the best use of our capital.”
Corrin said that while he appreciates the value of nutritional information, he doesn’t believe the law is tailored to allowing his customers to choose the menu options best suited to them.
“The legislation doesn’t tell the full story around holistic nutrition and I think Freshii and the way we think about menu innovation is more thoughtful than just calories,” he told BNN. “In fact, we believe not all calories are created equal.”
In the company’s statement of compliance on Tuesday Freshii stated they believe calorie counts to be ‘overly simplistic’ and ‘misleading’ to customers.
“We are a customization nation. Our guests are increasingly customizing their own meals,” Corrin told BNN. “How does this legislation help our guests customize if we’ve got to create a meal and then put a calorie (count) attached to that?”
Restaurants Canada’s Ontario Vice-President James Rilett echoed Freshii’s statement that calories only tell part of the story when it comes to nutrition, adding that not every customer will pay attention to the information even when it is prominently displayed in-store.
“When it’s right up there and you’re trying to make your decision often it just becomes something you ignore, because it’s white noise with all the other information,” he told BNN in an interview on Wednesday.
“Most customers know what they’re ordering when they go out. So they’re either going to indulge and don’t care about the calories or they’ve already made the decision ‘I’m going to eat the healthier option.’”
Corrin argued that a restaurant’s menu isn’t even the first point of decision-making contact any more, citing the rise of pre-ordering lunch off a smartphone.
“Increasingly guests are using the third-party mobile apps, they don’t even interact with the menu boards,” Corrin said. “So the legislation should evolve.”