Subway Is Not Ashamed: First Fast Food Restaurant To Put Calorie Info On Menus

While the other large fast food chains sue the City of New York to keep calorie information off their menus, Subway has gone ahead and complied with the New York City regulation. Dunkin’ Donuts, meanwhile, submitted a sample menu meant to “prove” that putting calorie info on its menu just couldn’t be done… and the NYC Health Department responded by having its own graphic designer redo the sign to prove that it could be done.


Dunkin’ Donuts submitted a sample menu board in an attempt to demonstrate that calorie information would not fit along with price information. From that sample, the Department’s director of graphics produced a replica of the menu board with comparable fonts and layout to demonstrate that calories could be listed easily and visibly, as shown in the illustrations below, and in Mr. Krueger’s declaration.. These modifications, as well as the earlier examples, provide clear evidence that calorie listings required by the regulations are feasible to implement with basic graphic design techniques.

Dunkin’ Donut’s sample menu is on the left, NYC’s on the right. We were initially skeptical of this regulation, but have to admit that the Subway menu looks really nice and doesn’t seem weird or gross at all. And, since the regulation only applies to big restaurant chains who have already had their nutritional info calculated… We fail to see what the big deal is. For background on what the regulation is and who it applies to, click here.

New York State Restaurant Association VS New York Board of Heath, New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, (Legal Brief, PDF) [CSPI]

PREVIOUSLY: NYC Restaurant Group Sues Over Nutritional Info Regulation


Edit Your Comment

  1. B says:

    Those coffee calorie figures must assume it’s served black with no sugar. Of course, putting the info for 50 kinds of donuts might be a better demonstration of why it can’t be done.

  2. CRSpartan01 says:

    And another reason why I love Subway…

  3. night_sky says:

    This is hilarious! Subway sandwiches aren’t the most healthiest thing to eat in the world, but they know they’re atleast somewhat health-concious vs standard fast food. I love going there! I always order me some veggie delight sandwich with no mayo or oil. Tastes great and I don’t feel full of grease afterward.

    I also find it funny how Quizno’s commercial tries to say “Wrongway” is for people with “no tastebuds.” lol Maybe because Subway’s promoting the healthiness rather than the packed on meat full of grease and salt?

    *sigh* When will business realize that some people actually DO want some degree of healthy options when looking for a quick meal?

  4. axiomatic says:

    Hold the mayo?!?!?! Commie!

  5. Youthier says:

    I wonder what’s figured into those Subway calorie counts. Cheese? Probably on the Melt or the Steak and Cheese but I’m not sure about the rest. Mayo?

  6. if BK and McD’s follow suit they are probably going to need to get sign extenders to accommodate for all those additional numberssssssss

  7. Mom2Talavera says:

    I always get a veggie.
    But the calories exclude condiments. Heck I even need mustard and oil/vinegar on mine.They always ask if I want to toast my sub! I don’t get the appeal of a “toasted” sub. The idea of warm limp lettuce makes me gag!

    I wish they would just sell their sandwich rolls in the store.

  8. night_sky says:

    @missbrooke06: Cheese is not factored in I think. The mayo is though I believe. It’s on their napkins too. That’s how I know this.

    Axiomatic, I still keep the mustard. :P

  9. Well the only difference I can see between the two menus is that Dunkin’ Doughnuts used a tiny font and left huge amounts of space between all the words and numbers on the menu. How did they expect that to prove it couldn’t be done?

    @night_sky: I agree about the Quiznos commercials. Before the “no taste” thing their ads would show people ‘on the street’ complaining that you can’t see the meat in a Subway sub from outside the bun. Seriously? You expect a sub from a restaurant that promotes how healthy their food is to have meat falling out of the bun?

    I just wish Subway had parodied those ads by having Jared walk up to one of those people and ask, “Um, are you stupid?”

  10. Juliekins says:

    @missbrooke06: If it’s anything like the nutrition guide on their website, they figure it without cheese, mayo, or oil. The nutrition guide does list those items, though, so it’s easy enough to figure out.

    I just wish low carb diets were still cool. I miss the low carb Atkins wraps. Subway has gone back to a mostly white flour tortilla (mmm, gummy!) instead of the soy flour/fiber fortified Atkins wraps they used to have.

  11. Steel_Pelican says:

    Does this new law only apply to chain restaurants, or do independent restaurants need to comply, too?

    The cost to have all of your menu items tested for caloric content could be crippling to most restaurants.

  12. Youthier says:

    @night_sky: @FitJulie: It seems extremely misleading to not factor cheese into the calorie count for a sandwich that’s called “Steak and Cheese” but I’m sure that you’re both correct.

  13. Youthier says:

    Also, Dunkin Donuts didn’t try very hard to prove anything. They should have put ounces next to the sizes or not done the menu in a column style. Their marketing and design teams are not very corrupt apparently.

    Speaking of DD, has anyone else heard of the free donut every Monday in July promotion?

  14. TVarmy says:

    The problem of listing calories for a ton of items could be resolved easily, although it may not 100% comply with the letter of the law: Make a big, glossy calorie binder similar to what you see at bakeries and ice cream places to show all the cake designs. That, or they could just put the amount of calories on the card they put the name on. But that’d be too easy.

  15. joemono says:

    @MOM2TALAVERA: They toast the sub before putting any of the veggies on.

    @AXIOMATIC: “Terrorist” is the new “Commie,” get with the times!

  16. put it on the receipt. that way you see what you pay for both monetarily and bodytarily (ok I made that last word up but you get the point)

  17. @Steel_Pelican: Consumerist’s post at the top says this only applies to big chains who already have their caloric info calculated.

  18. Thorimm says:

    You know, I look at e the two menus side by side, and I think the one the city put together is much easier to read than the presumably standard menu that DD submitted.

  19. quagmire0 says:

    This is the government equivalent of a parent strongarming a teacher into giving their child a better grade because they have ‘issues studying’. Seriously, you eat at McDonald’s and Taco Bell all day every day and you still wonder why you get winded walking to the bathroom?

  20. firestarsolo says:

    With a parent company with the name “Doctor’s Associates, Inc.” you’d at least half expect them to be somewhat health-conscious…

  21. AcidReign says:

    &nbsp &nbsp I’m actually shocked at the Subway figures. I love a good BMT loaded up with spinach leaves, tomato, peppers and onions. I always figured I was eating the most caloric, fat-laden thing in the store. Clearly not so!

  22. Miss Anthropy says:

    Frankly, I think they’re both ugly. The revised one has vastly overrated the ability of the average consumer to read a menu with lots of information on it. I guarantee you at least one person a day will complain that he can’t get a large latte for $2.32, or ask what the “Cal” size is.

    I suppose after a time people will get used to the idea that menus will have calorie information on them and they’ll learn to expect those extra columns, but it’ll be kind of a pain until then.

    But hey, if we can train people to read new and confusing menus, maybe there’s a small hope of training them to use metric, so we can get out of the dark ages once and for all.

  23. Kadaki says:

    @Thorimm: That’s probably because DD shrank the text to “prove” that adding the calories to the menu would make the make the menu unreadable.

  24. WTRickman says:

    That’s nuts!!!

    I love the Subway Melt, but I avoid it like the plague, because I thought it was calorie packed.

  25. clarient says:

    @quagmire0: That’s not even close to a good comparison.

    The companies already have the caloric info calculated, all they have to do now if put a circle next to the item on their board with a number or two in it – calories and fat. They don’t want to do that because the vast majority of their consumers don’t realize how incredibly bad for you their food is. God forbid we know what we’re putting into our bodies.

    I knew, intellectually, that the food wasn’t good for you, but right up until I actually checked out caloric content online, I didn’t realize just HOW bad for you it really was. Now I am doubly cautious about what I eat when I am out.

    As an aside – have any of you ever checked out the nutritional information for Chili’s? You might be horrified.

  26. Canadian Impostor says:

    Yeah, that redone menu is pretty much unreadable.

  27. wooster11 says:

    It doesn’t really concern me that Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t want to put calorie info on their menus (it just makes sense that someone who sells Donuts doesn’t want to show how bad they are for people), what concerns me is that an extra large coffee costs $21.90!!!

    I heard their coffee was good, but c’mon??? 22 bucks!! Is it really that good?

  28. oldtaku says:

    @WOOSTER11: I think the X-Large is the half gallon (?) 12-cup box, intended for things like meetings. Starbucks, Coffee Bean, etc. all have one. It really is as large as the price implies.

  29. MercuryPDX says:

    I hate Subway. All the deli meat is turkey based with added color/flavoring (check the fine print). So your ham and salami are really “Ham flavored turkey” and “salami flavored turkey”.

    Quizno’s at least delivers the real deal.

  30. Kornkob says:

    I don’t see what should be so difficult about even small companies providing calorie information would be. The caloric content of almost every ingredient used in restaurants is already known and provided by the manufacturer/packager or is easily found by looking it up in any number of commonly available resources. It should be a relatively trivial matter for even the smallest of restaurants to figure out the approximate caloric content of their food.

    I mean, really, if thousands of calorie counting soccer moms can figure out the caloric content of their meals , I think it is safe to assume that a small restaurateur can probably figure it out too.

  31. anatak says:

    We were initially skeptical of this regulation, but have to admit that the Subway menu looks really nice and doesn’t seem weird or gross at all. And, since the regulation only applies to big restaurant chains who have already had their nutritional info calculated… We fail to see what the big deal is.

    Thank you for that, Meg. Whole heartedly agree. People do have the right to know this BEFORE they make the purchase.

  32. glorpy says:

    The Subway website explains how to interpret the nutrition info. They seem to pretty honest about their nutrition info, which is good, given that healthy eating is their mantra.

    “Subs with 6 grams of fat or less include Italian or wheat bread, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, green peppers and olives. All other sandwich values include cheese unless otherwise noted.

    Salads contain meat/poultry, standard vegetables and do not include salad-dressing or croutons.

    Addition of other condiments and fixings will alter nutrition values.”

  33. bossco says:

    every fast food or take out place shouold put this info up. I think most people would really appreciate knowing what they are getting and could make better eating decisions!

  34. SaraAB87 says:

    Subway has information posted on the glass where you order, on their cups and on their napkins. I am not sure if they include cheese or not in the calorie content though. I would assume a sub like steak & cheese would have the cheese included in the content. They did advertise on the commercials that subs with 6 grams of fat or less do not include cheese or mayo. I do know that a serving of cheese from subway has 3.5 grams of fat. A serving of regular mayo has 10 grams of fat and a serving of light mayo has 5 grams of fat. They have a whole list of dressings placed on the glass where you order with calorie content and fat, and there are plenty of choices other than mayo that have very few calories and little or no fat. The only thing that I find ironic is that they do not offer low fat choclate milk (the chocolate milk they stock here has 8g fat per serving), but then again there are many other options for you to choose from when ordering.

    Taco bell has also resorted to similar methods by placing calorie content and fat content on the tray placemats.

    Why not just have a brochure ready with calorie and nutritonal information WITHIN the reach of customers? Most places if you want a brochure you have to ask for it and then employees are unwilling to give it to you, not everyone has the internet yet. I don’t see the problem with printing brochures and having a small rack of them by the register so people can make themselves aware of what they are getting when ordering their food. This would eliminate the problem of confusing menus.

  35. kimsama says:

    Not sure why this is such a big deal to these companies. In Japan pretty much every fast food joint (and some “casual-dining” places) put calories on the menu or board. Heck, I went to the Subway at Todai and they had it up there. And they have that awesome new barcode thing to scan the calorie information at McDonalds there (WANT). We’re way behind on this.

  36. jeff303 says:

    It ain’t just about calories – the source of the calories is probably more important than the total. 50 from omega 3s, 50 from omega 6s, 50 from protein, 50 from complex carbs is not the same as 200 from sugar.

  37. Jan says:

    Dunkin DOES have an X-Large size Coffee. The 10 cup container is a ‘Box ‘O Joe’. The company just doesn’t proof read very well.

  38. ronaldscott says:

    @Mom2Talavera: They toast the thing, then they put on the vegetables. There’s no point in toasting a Veggie Delight, you just get veggies on toasted bread that way.

  39. ronaldscott says:

    @MercuryPDX: Citation please.

  40. MercuryPDX says:

    @ronaldscott: The last time I went in there years ago I asked how their 6″ Ham and 6″ Turkey sandwich are only 10 calories apart (Ham, even lean ham, has way more fat than turkey). The ‘artist’ explained that anything non-deli (Meatball sub, chicken breast, steak sandwich) was real meat but the rest was all turkey-based.

    Ask for the “branded” nutritional brochure next time you go in. I am unable to find a scan of it online, and their own website only lists the “Cold Cut Combo: Turkey bologna, turkey ham, turkey salami, cheese and standard vegetables”.

    The ‘*footnote’ text at the bottom that states all the deli meat is all turkey based. Barring that, ask at the counter.

  41. Shadowfire says:

    @jeff303: That was my thought too… and I really don’t understand why this needs to be law. If people want to know, they’ll go online and look, or ask for the calorie information packet. If they don’t, fine.

    I just don’t get why we must protect people from themselves. :(

  42. Rahnee says:

    ok, just an observation. On the pictures of the coffee calories did anyone else notice that if it is over ice it has more calories? I didn’t think water had calories or am I missing some vital bit of information I never learned in school?

  43. drjayphd says:

    @Rahnee: The iced ones might be bigger. Not totally certain offhand, but I’m sure they are.


    Yup, the nutritional info lists iced as 16 ounces and regular as 10.

  44. Kornkob says:

    @Shadowfire: Because many restaurants don’t provide the information even if you ask for it.

    I don’t see what the problem with a law requiring all restaurants to provide caloric content information.

    For that matter, I don’t see a problem with requiring detailed ingredient information to be provided on all products, food or otherwise.

  45. Bunnymuffin says:

    Having just dealt with this at Wendy’s, fast food resturants do everything they can to confuse you with their nutritional information. After I found the chart on a side wall near the cash register, I tried to decipher the salads. Some salads had cheese added into the total calories, some did not and all the dressings were at the bottom of the chart far away from the salads.

    I asked every employee in that resturant to help me decode that nutritional chart and finally the manager on duty told me that they didn’t receive any training on how to read it, they just had to post it.

    I got the lowest salad listed and ate it without the dressing and then when I got home I tried to get the information online only to find that they didn’t even post that salad on the website.

    So telling people they can just go online doesn’t help if the company doesn’t actually post the information.

  46. David Millar says:

    I think the city version of the coffee menu is so good that if Dunkin Donuts doesn’t use it, I might be forced to move to New York and open my own coffee chain.

    I also hope to see more samples of ‘impossible menus’ and then see how the city version looks. It reminds me of the photoshop contests on Fark.

  47. Tonguetied says:

    My understanding is that they aren’t allowed to put it on cards or on the receipt. Or rather that they can put the information in a big glossy binder and on the receipt if they want to but that doesn’t eliminate the requrement that they put the info on the menu boards.

    I tend to think of the calorie counts on the menu boards as deceptive because you know that they are going to use the lowest calorie configuration. No veggies, no condiments, lightest(?) bread.

    How well will the calorie count on the menu board match up with the most common way the sandwiches/hamburgers/etc. are actually eaten?

  48. ronaldscott says:

    @MercuryPDX: Thank you, I’ll do that.

  49. nighthwk1 says:


    It might not be turkey-based meat in everything, but check out the Cold Cut Combo ingredients on this page: []

  50. medic78 says:

    As I understand it, the law is just for those restaraunts that already post their nutrition info either online, or on brochures in the store. Many stores have simply pulled all nutrition info from every source to avoid the law.
    My girlfriend has run into this at a few restaraunts. She’s on a strict diet, and needs the info, but many websites have pulled the info, and replaced it with a message about New York’s law causing problems. She also can no longer get any information from the locations themselves.
    Needless to say, she’s kinda pissed at New York for making it next to impossible to go out to eat anymore.

  51. eli_b says:

    The design from NY is more of a ‘rebuttal’ than an effective design solution. Idealy, it would be on a separate panel somewhere, not cluttering up the menu. I’m all for the rule, but there’s no point in making the people working there have to explain 1000 times what those columns mean.

  52. Mary says:

    In the book Mindless Eating, the authors go into a Subway and did research as to if the nuitrition information they plaster everywhere was actually making a difference.

    They found that overall, people got a mis-represented idea that because of that info, Subway was healthier as a whole and ate what they wanted, usually taking in the same calories and fat as any other place. They didn’t pay attention to the specifics, and couldn’t recall any of it that they’d read all over the store. They just knew it was there.

    Something to think about.