Calculating the exact calorie count of individual dishes could cost businesses up to £500, in addition to further costs from reprinting menus, the Treasury estimated in 2018.
The Department of Health and Social Care ran a consultation seeking views on making places that serve food and drink outside of the home show calorie information.
The consultation closed in December 2018 and the department said it would respond as soon as possible.
Ellis Pannell operates the Pyne Arms in Barnstaple, Devon, and estimated he would lose a day’s trade as he would have to shut himself away and plan his menus ahead.
He told The Morning Advertiser: “Having to calorie count my menu would be an absolute nightmare, I work alone in the kitchen, often changing the menu twice daily.
“Keeping up with the paperwork alone required by the Food Standards Agency is time consuming enough, often taking me away from the actual cooking. I wouldn’t be able to do it.
“Would this affect our scores on the doors? I don’t know. I would have to take a hit on that I suppose.”
Burden for pubs
UKHospitality said it was awaiting further developments on this policy in England, though there had been announcements Scottish and Welsh policymakers were pushing ahead with it.
A spokesperson explained: “Many businesses are already pushing ahead voluntarily with labelling on menus where they have the resources to do so.
“Mandatory labelling would certainly be a significant burden for small businesses at a time when pubs are already being squeezed.
“It could have the effect of increasing costs for businesses and reducing choice for customers, as mandatory labelling might stifle innovation on menus, particularly when seasonal ingredients and specials are used.”
Sharing their thoughts on Twitter, the operators of the Rat Inn, Hexham, Northumberland, said the move was indicative of increasing demands on small businesses, which often change menus seasonally.
They said: “It’s very sad and is at odds with the whole idea of hospitality.
“After all, it’s easy to spot a dish that is calorie-laden as opposed to one that is lighter. It’s common sense – people need to take responsibility for themselves.”https://twitter.com/ratales/status/1232943438276046850https://twitter.com/ratales/status/1232943724046540800
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Knowing the calories in our food when eating out makes it easier to make healthier choices, and it is encouraging to see companies leading the way and doing this already.
“Obesity has long-term preventable consequences for health, and we need to be ambitious if we are going to halve childhood obesity rates by 2030.”