Menu ingredients

There are only a few restaurants that I frequent, not because the food is somehow better there, but because the choice of ingredients by corporate chefs. Some businesses choose to use high fructose corn syrup as an additive in menu items (I understand this choice from a cost/profitability perspective, from a sugar/sweetness index perspective, and from an addictiveness perspective). For many years I have avoided fast food restaurants because the ingredient list is difficult to obtain.

In my case I am not part of the “HFCS is the evil in the food industry” crowd. I simply have an allergy where I can not process this sugar, and to consume it makes me physically sick. To give these institutions $5 for a meal, is to give myself a 5 dollar-14 hour illness. This has resulted in a lot of label reading. So when I go to a restaurant I always ask for ingredient lists.

Today I stop by KFC for the first time in 10 years, I asked the clerk behind the counter if they could give me an ingredients list for the traditional and extra crispy chicken, he promptly contacted his manager who came out and told me that they could not give out ingredients list for liability reasons. However, I could go to the website and look at the nutritional information provided by KFC on their website.

In a way this is surprising because at many places like QDoba I can ask at the register (which is no longer just a point of sale, but is a point of service) and receive a printed list of ingredients. Other companies have been able to print off ingredients from their point of service machines for menu items.

Here is the rub: KFC is one of those companies that uses a service to manage the information presentation of their ingredient lists. They use nutritionix.com.

Now the fact that they use a service is not inherently bad, and shows that some management thought has gone into providing customers with access to some ingredients, but the following question should be asked from a services management perspective: is this service meeting the needs of our customers? In this case I would like to suggest it doesn’t. The nutritionix page for KFC starts the user out by having them select the allergens that they would like to avoid.

The problem is that things like high fructose corn syrup are not considered allergens (by this website). A broader approach to information access in this case would solve more use cases. What if the question asked was: what ingredients would you like to avoid?

Asking the question this way would allow users and customers like me to quickly find menu items that fall within our dietary needs.

What is in a soda?

The pictured sign in the KFC, which is also shared with an A & W suggest that the root beer sold by A & W in this particular store is made with real cane sugar. It does not expressly state that there is no high fructose corn syrup in the soda, only that there is also at least some real cane sugar included in the drink. It is often the case with sodas that if they are made with real cane sugar it’s implied that there without high fructose corn syrup. So when my wife ordered me one I was curious what was really in the drink. With this in mind I went to the A & W website (because the staff of this jointly branded store is unlikely to tell me anything about the A & W ingredients either) to find their ingredients list. I found a PDF which shows that their root beer does contain high fructose corn syrup. The disappointing feature of this soda is that there is an apparent disagreement between the corporate messaging in store and their presentation online. I feel the in store messaging is misleading in a physically painful manner.


Photo of spork.

As an aside, my 2 year old daughter found eating with the spork difficult. The macaroni and cheese kept falling off. But this is is more about making the eating experience more family friendly, rather than less painful.