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USA Today reports this morning that Panera Bread has decided to post calorie information for all its offerings on its company-owned restaurant menu boards - regardless of whether the local community requires it.

"It puts everything out in the open, obviously," said Scott Davis, the company's chief concept officer. "So when you look at making a choice between a soup with 100 calories and a sandwich with 300 or 400 calories, it puts it pretty clearly what's in your best interest."

The company concedes that in some ways, this move is designed to head off the possibility of broader mandates; however, it also says that the decision has been well-received by consumers in stores where the change already has taken place.

Yum Brands also has committed to posting calorie counts in its fast food restaurant chains, but not until next year...even though it made the commitment in 2008. Panera expects to have the new menu boards in place by the end of the month.
KC's View:
This is very smart, in part because it embraces the kind of transparency that I believe that most customers want. It also has been long argued here that companies are better served by doing these kinds of things before governments require them. Calorie count posting clearly is a trend that is gaining traction...and companies should just do it.