On pizza regulations, Trump slices differently than his own FDA commissioner
As the owner of 18 Domino’s stores in Texas, I do not cut corners, whether on pizzas or complying with the law. Unfortunately, on May 7 the law will become especially burdensome and unhelpful to my customers. That day, President Trump’s FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb will implement a nationwide, Obama-era menu-labeling rule requiring restaurants with 20 or more locations to post in-store menu boards listing the calories of every item sold.
I fully support efforts to ensure consumers have access to nutritional information, and my customers deserve accurate information delivered to them at the point of sale. I would not have lasted 36 years in this industry and succeeded as a Domino’s franchisee over the past 20 if I were working against the interests of my customers. At the same time, small business owners like me deserve a fair accounting of the rule’s costs. But the rule as codified by Gottlieb fails on both counts, and Trump must direct Gottlieb to fix the rule before it goes into effect.
First, the rule fails to account for how my customers actually order pizza in the real world out here in West Texas. Unlike other food establishments that have static menu options, pizza is highly variable: Domino’s offers consumers 34 million different combinations of pizza.
Can you imagine yourself in a small store in Midland or Odessa, Texas, plastered with menu boards, trying to calculate all of these possible combinations?
In addition, Domino’s customers do 90 percent of their ordering remotely — either online (Web and app) or by phone. I estimate that I will have to spend approximately $5,000 annually per store to put up compliant menu boards. I’m talking possibly $90,000 to invest in signage that less than 10 percent of my customers actually will see, and less than that actually will use.
Second, the costs of the rule to my employees and me could be excessive, with the greatest beneficiaries of these costs being trial lawyers. This is because Gottlieb’s rule exposes my employees and me to civil and criminal penalties of up to one year in prison and/or a $100,000 fine for inadvertent violations.
That means if one of us accidentally tops a pizza with too much pepperoni or cheese, or is a little heavy-handed with the tomato sauce on a given day, we could be headed to prison.
I know many supporters of the rule would argue that’s an outrageous claim, but FDA has offered no information or clarity except: “Trust us.”
So, what’s a sensible solution that works for both small businesses and consumers?