Does Government Mandate of Calorie Counts Go Too Far?

"You'd be surprised the favorable reaction to that," said Pat Mellor, Chicago area manager of Panera. "And the customers that want to know love it, and the customers that really don't care, they don't even pay any attention to it. ... Believe it or not, what we're seeing is the customers that do care are getting smarter about their options and their picks, and they're really figuring out what works best for them."

The calorie counts can vary widely, starting with breakfast.

"We've got an Asiago bagel breakfast sandwich with bacon, eggs and our Vermont cheddar cheese on an Asiago bagel," Mellor said. "It's about 610 calories. Right below we've got a power breakfast sandwich... It comes on our whole-grain bread with ham, egg, and cheese, and it's only 360 calories."

At lunch-time, soups are the safest bet, most of them right around 100 calories per cup. The Italian combo sandwich? Look out below.

"It's our biggest offering," said Mellor. "It's got the most meat, the most items, that surprised me a little bit. ... I think it's around 900 calories." Actually it's 1,040, according to Panera's numbers.

Calories: 'It Helps Me to Make Better Choices'

Customers told ABC News that the calorie counts are helpful, but only to a point.

"It helps me to make better choices," said Heather Morris, a Panera's customer.

"The calorie count probably isn't going to change what I order," said Dennis LaLiberty, another customer. "But it might increase my guilt quotient."

Since it began listing calorie counts, Panera has noticed some modest changes, Mellor said. More people are choosing the "pick two" combination of a soup and half a sandwich or half a salad, he said. But there's been no sweeping rebellion against the more fattening choices.

Credit--or blame--for the new rules belongs in part to Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin.

"As more and more consumers become aware of choices, they will start making the healthy choice," Harkin told ABC News. "Now does that mean everyone is going stop eating Big Macs? No, not at all. But I think even McDonalds will tell you this, more and more people are eating salads in McDonalds then they ever have before."

But will the new rules really change behavior? Since Starbucks started posting calories in New York City, a Stanford University study has found that consumers purchased products with 6 percent fewer calories per transaction. The average calories purchased fell from 247 to 232.

The national restaurant lobby has signed on to the new rules after first opposing them to avoid the hodgepodge of conflicting state and local regulations.

"Our customers who travel from Seattle to Florida or New York to California, we want them to get the same experience from cafe to cafe," said Mellor.

But Durand insisted the calorie counts were unnecessary. "[Customers] don't even care about that!" he said.

Coming soon to a chain outlet near you: perhaps more than you really care to know about that Burger King BK Quad Stacker. 930 calories. But who's counting?

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10231325. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10231325. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10231325. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10231325. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10231325. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10231325. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10231325. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10231325. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10231325. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10231325.
Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
Newborns at this hospital on Christmas Day get the special stockings as a keepsake.
Magee-Womens Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
PHOTO: The Broadway musical, Rent, opened on Christmas Eve in Havana, Cuba.
Theo Zierock for ABC News
PHOTO: St. Louis Police officers guard the entrance to the Cathedral Basilica before Midnight Mass as protesters held a candlelight vigil, Dec. 24, 2014, in St. Louis.
Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/AP Photo