CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - After years of delays the Food and Drug Administration is implementing it's smart menu labeling rule this week requiring menus and signs to have calorie counts for prepared food and beverages.
The new law applies to thousands of restaurants, movie theaters, and other businesses that have more than 20 locations, including smaller franchises like Wings Etc.Grill and Pub.
Joe Hobbs owns two of the chicken wing restaurants in Cape Girardeau and Jackson, Mo. and says they're ordering about 500 new menus that will include calorie information.
While some items have a flat calorie counts, Hobbs says other selections have a broad range depending on the type of sauce or salad dressing that is used.
"When the printers are done with them they're being shipped directly to us so we should have them hopefully by the end of the week," Hobbs said. "As we get it rolled out and we start moving forward I'm sure there will be some impact initially, but if you're coming to a wing and beer joint you know what you're getting into."
Kristen Tarnl and Hannah Landewe are both student-athletes at Notre Dame High School and ate lunch at Wings Etc. with a small group of other students and staff Tuesday.
After looking at a draft of a new menu Tarnl realized some parts of the meal she was ordering were high in calories, which swayed her to customize it by choosing healthier options.
"I was going to get curly fries and seven traditional wings with mild sauce, but I see that the mild sauce is 310 calories for just the sauce," Tarnl said. "Now I'm going to get the hot barbie sauce which is 70 calories."
On the other hand, Landewe says she is sticking to one of her favorite entrees no matter what the calorie count is.
"The quesadilla is over 1,000 calories, but I think I'm still going to get it because it tastes good," she said. "The calories don't really matter to me."
One goal of the new labeling law is to chip away at the worsening obesity epidemic in America by encouraging customers to consume less or choose healthier options. Hobbs agrees it could help.
"Whether you're buying a car or a house, or a salad. The more information you have, the more educated you are the better," Hobbs said. "I think this is good for the customer, good for the public. We'll see what kind of choices they make in the long run. Maybe they get used to it and move back, who knows."
Concession signs inside Cape's movie theater are already showing the nutritional facts as well.
Rob Novak, the vice president of concessions for Marcus Theaters, says the calories posted for commonly shared items like large sodas and tubs of popcorn are not subdivided into separate portions.
"We list the entire caloric intake of the entire dish whether you share it or not," Novak said. "We've always tried to offer better for you options, but a lot of our guest end up selecting what they want. The snacks at the movie theater are not necessarily part of the everyday diet, nor do the people go to the movie theater every single day."
Moviegoer Emily Garrett says she often gets a large popcorn for her and a friend but says she might not buy it as often if she knows the number of calories it has.
"It's honestly a shocker," Garrett said. "Sometimes you assume, 'Oh this can't be that bad', but in the end it can be a lot worse than you would really think. It will be a good eye opener but I also know it will be a little obnoxious not to indulge as freely as you once could."
The deadline for businesses who need to update calorie counts on menus and signs is May 14.