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.