On May 26, Members of the Provincial Parliament (MPPs) from all three major parties voted and passed the act, which will also enact the Healthy Menu Choices Act. Ontario restaurant chains and other food-service providers with 20 or more locations operating under the same (or substantially the same name) will need to make changes to the information they display on menus, menu boards and displays regarding standard food and drink items.
According to Christine Jackson, Nicole Kutlesa and Lindsay Rauccio of law firm Osler, Huskin and Harcourt LLP, these food-service providers include quick-service restaurants (QSRs), convenience stores, grocery stores, movie theatres and other businesses preparing meals for immediate consumption, either on or off the premises.
When the act was originally proposed, it included franchisors as part of the definition, “a person who owns or operates a regulated food-service premise.” However, this created uncertainty in the franchise industry as to whether a franchisor and its franchisees could both be found liable because a franchisor failed to comply.
At the committee stage, the act was amended to define a person who owns or operates a regulated food-service premise as “a person who has responsibility for and control over the activities carried out at the regulated food-service premise” which may include a franchisor, a licensor, a person who owns or operates a regulated food-service premise through a subsidiary and a manager of a regulated food-service premise.” The definition does not include a regular employee who works at the premise.
The lawyers say it is too early to tell how this amendment will be interpreted, but it appears a franchisor’s exposure to liability with the act will likely be tied to the level of control it has over the activities carried out at the restaurant level, if any.