New menu regulations eat into profits for small businesses 

There are many, many ways to order a Domino’s Pizza, so, thanks to President Barack Obama’s national health care law, the chain’s franchisees may have to spend more than $5 million attempting to squeeze calorie data next to every one of their menus.

Not that the company is trying to hide anything. The Domino’s website already provides nutritional information to the 90 percent of customers who order online or by phone.

The chain also has the information in pamphlet form for the few customers who actually visit one of its 4,909 physical stores. But that’s not good enough to comply with new federal rules expected to be finalized by year’s end.

Section 4205 of the national health care law, Nutritional Labeling of Standard Menu Items at Chain Restaurants, caused little stir when Obamacare passed last year. But the new rules are now causing a major headache for businesses, enacting sweeping changes without consideration of their real-world effects.

The law specifies that the number of calories in a food product must be printed directly next to the item on the menu, which is particularly difficult for fast-food restaurants that post their products on large, already crowded signs rather than standard paper menus.

In Domino’s case, the only way it can fit calorie information on its menu signs is to provide broad ranges. For instance, a large Feast pizza could range from 1,840 to 3,740 calories because there are four different crust types and six different varieties.

But on the current website, a customer could get much more specific — a slice of a large deep dish ExtravaganZZa Feast pizza is 420 calories (there are eight slices in a large pie).

While it’s easy to assume a large corporation can afford to make such changes, most of the burden for complying with the new rules falls on franchisees, who are essentially small-business owners.

Domino’s individual stores average $40,000 in profits each year and the new rules could cost up to $4,700 at a given location, the
company says.

Charlie Malament started working at Domino’s as a delivery driver in the 1980s while a senior in college. Over time, he moved up the ladder, and currently owns four Domino’s outlets in Maryland.

Under the new rules, if Malament wanted to introduce a new item, such as a crab-cake pizza, he’d have to replace the signs in all of his stores, sucking time and money that could otherwise be used to build his business.

Philip Klein is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner.

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