Businesses with more than 250 employees will be required to display calorie information of non-prepacked food and soft drink items on sale. The legislation will come into force from April 2022.
Calorie information will need to be displayed at the point of choice for the customer, such as physical menus, online menus, food delivery platforms and food labels.
The Government said this will help tackle obesity while protecting small businesses. However, the pub trade has warned further regulations could strangle businesses as they look to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Businesses will be able to provide customers a menu without calorie information at customers' express request, the regulations are to state.
However, operators have said the new rules represent a fresh burden on the sector after an unprecedented year of hardship.
In a Twitter poll of more than 100 readers, some 86.3% voted that they did not support the plans while just 8.8% were supportive.
Pub operators: do you support the Government's plans to enforce calorie labels on menus for pub businesses employing more than 250 people? #ukpubs— The Morning Advertiser (@morningad) May 13, 2021
Speaking on The Morning Advertiser’s Lock In podcast, editor Ed Bedington and operators James Cuthbertson and Heath Ball discussed the new legislation.
The trio said it seemed like an unfair imposition on the sector just as it was seeking to recover after over a year of stringent restrictions.
The change would also mean pubs were more likely to stick to the same menu, Ball said.
“Everyone's menus are just going to become more boring and more stagnant because they wont be changing s**t as often,” he added.
“It's not going to act as stimulation for innovation if it's yet another thing you have to work out,” agreed Bedington.
UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls called for the legislation to be delayed and for Government to work with the sector on the plans.
She explained: “Hospitality businesses share the Government’s objectives in tackling obesity and improving public health, but at a time of huge economic uncertainty these new rules must strike a balance and be proportionate.
"The majority of operators are in survival mode and their recovery will take many, many months, so it will be vital to get the practical elements of this legislation right.
“In light of this, we urge the Government to consider delaying the implementation of any legislation rather than layering on new costs for businesses in a sector that has been hardest hit by the pandemic and risks prolonging their recovery and business’ ability to invest and create jobs.
"Government needs to work closely with the sector in implementing the legislation in an effective way, and with the new Office for Health Promotion, to ensure the new rules work for hospitality businesses affected, and do not lead to unintended consequences, customer choice and costs.”