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At McDonald’s, You’ll Know When the Fat Hits the Fryer

The menu display, with calories listed, behind the counter at a New York City McDonald's.
The menu display, with calories listed, behind the counter at a New York City McDonald's.Photograph by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Anyone who eats at McDonald’s in the U.S. next week—and 25 million people do on any given day—will get a chance to experience the angst that New Yorkers have felt for four years. Calories, those enigmatic numbers that often seem to correlate strongly with taste and health (though in opposite ways), are about to debut on the fast-food chain’s menu boards nationwide.

On the bright side, data suggest McDonald’s customers will eat less. That’s what happened in New York City after April 2008, when every morsel a chain restaurant sold had to suddenly have its calories posted for all to see. Stanford researchers found that, at Starbucks at least, the move resulted in customers eating 6 percent fewer calories per transaction. (The finding only applied to food. When it came to gulping back a venti white chocolate mocha with whipped cream, consumers didn’t care about the 620 calories that came with their caffeine fix.)