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Calorie counts on menus are just the beginning, says Zagat founder

August 7, 2008 | 12:13 pm

Zagat Tim Zagat, co-founder of the Zagat guide, predicts that restaurants big and small will soon be looking for ways to provide more nutritional data to diners and offer more healthful, calorie-conscious fare. And far from ruining the dining experience, he said, it could end up being a selling point.

"I think it’s kind of to be expected," Zagat said of Los Angeles County's foray into calorie labeling on certain menus. "People have a right to know what they are eating."

He said he's also mulling over ways to convey that information to readers of his instantly-recognizeable burgundy guide that began compiling customer reviews long before it was trendy to do so. "There’s a greater sensitivity to this kind of thing than ever before, and it can be made into a positive. The restaurants that are able to anticipate and get ahead of the curve are likely to do it and do well."

Sure, there will be some people turned off by it, he said. But he compared it to the ban on smoking in restaurants. While some smokers were put out, nonsmokers were elated and data shows that those non-smokers returned to dining out in droves, he said.

"People aren’t going to stop eating out. It's making sure that they know what it is that they are eating, which I think makes fundamentally good sense," he said. "You're empowering your customers."

--Rene Lynch

Photo credit: Zagat Survey