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Burgerville Offers Personalized Calorie Counts on Receipts, You Want Thighs With That?

Burgerville receipts

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Think about what you hope for when you buy a meal from a local fast
food joint–speed, convenience, taste, and maybe even
sustainably sourced ingredients if you’re lucky. But a low-calorie
meal? Probably not that high on the list. Burgerville, a fast food
chain in the Pacific Northwest that highlights local, seasonal food, aims to change that by providing custom
nutritional information on receipts. The receipt system is being rolled
out to all 39 Burgerville locations this week. But does it go too far?

“It
started first with guests interested in customizing our food. For those
who have allergies or are health-conscious, how do they know if
they’re on track or not?” Burgerville CEO Jeff Harvey tells FastCompany.com. So
Harvey did some research on Nutricate,
a system from SmartReceipt that offers personalized nutritional
information on receipts. The system is already used in many hospitals
and employee cafeterias, but Burgerville is the first fast food chain
to adopt it.

Burgerville’s receipt system doesn’t just shock
customers into making different food choices–it also suggests what
some of those choices might be. “One of our signatures is a real ice cream milkshake with seasonal fruit–it has the best quality ingredients, coming straight from the farms, but the
calorie count could be as high as 800 calories. So guests will get a recommendation saying, for example, if you like the blueberry shake, you might consider getting a blueberry smoothie next time,” Harvey says.

The program makes sense for customers on a diet, but we have to wonder if it feeds just a little bit too much into our ever-growing obsession with calories. Burgerville customers can at least rest easy knowing that their high-calorie food isn’t coming from factory farms. But if it catches on, the program could set a questionable precedent. New York City already requires chains to provide calorie data on their menus, so it’s not a stretch to think that a calorie-counting receipt system might be implemented at some point in the future.

Burgerville customers who tested the program in a pilot were satisfied with the results, however. “Most all of the feedback was positive, and no guests were shocked by the info. I
don’t recall getting any negative feedback,” Harvey says.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

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