One of our favorite topics here at The Spoon right now is the reinvention of the restaurant menu. Social distancing and new guidelines around restaurant reopenings are forcing businesses to forgo the standard reusable menu and adopt digital versions customers can view on mobile devices. It’s a big switch and not without its operational headaches. But it also opens up a lot of doors in terms of the kind of information that could eventually be available on the restaurant menu.
For example, the carbon footprint of your lunch.
Fast-casual chain Just Salad announced today it will now label all of its menu items with a corresponding carbon footprint. The score for each menu item is calculated in partnership with a team at the NYU Stern School of Business, and will reflect “the total estimated greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of ingredients in each menu item,” according to a press release from Just Salad.
These carbon footprints will first rollout on the chain’s website. Since digital menus are becoming the norm, it’s unclear if those changes will make it to physical menus, or indeed if those will even be in stores in the future. An exact date for the carbon footprint info on online menus has not yet been set.
Just Salad’s online menu is already fairly robust in terms of the nutritional information it provides customers about their meals. Hovering over an item pulls up the same nutrition facts one might read on the label of a box in the grocery store, and, for build-your-own salads and wraps, updates itself based on each ingredient you add to the mix.
Since the carbon footprint scores for Just Salad’s menu items aren’t yet live, we don’t quite know what they’ll look like in digital format. I imagine they’ll be merged with the ingredients interface in some way so that a customer can view the nutritional and sustainability info of their meal in a single place. And while there was no mention of it in the press release, one imagines food traceability information could also eventually make its way into this new format.
The carbon scores are a small step in menu development, but very telling in how this mandatory push to digital menus could welcome a new era of transparency when it comes to knowing where our food comes from and how our eating impacts the planet. In the ongoing quest for silver linings to come out of the current restaurant industry upheaval, this is definitely one of them.