Is hemp hip for the restaurant industry?


June 20, 2019

It’s a disturbing trend, one restaurateurs all around the United States are feeling — an absence of people sitting down in their eateries.

In food service businesses across the country, fewer and fewer tables are consistently occupied. While the industry did see its best same-store sales since 2015, experts link this fact to higher guest checks — an increase of 2.6% — rather than more patrons. In addition, research showing that overall industry guest counts have dropped nearly 2% since 2017 supports that figure.

In a market full of takeout, delivery, curb-side pick up and mail-order menu items, drawing people into the restaurant itself seems to be an unexpected challenge.

But can one of society's hottest topics — CBD — help with that?

The evidence for yes

CBD's popularity has exploded within the past year or so. It's in everything from lotions to tinctures to gummy bears. Manufacturers tout its calming, restorative, even pain-relieving qualities, and perhaps because of all the hype, more and more retailers nationwide are ordering CBD-infused products. We're not talking about that funky incense shop on the corner, here, we're talking about giants like CVS.

CBD is also showing up in foods like muffins, coffee and smoothies. USA Today recently ran a story naming several restaurants that have menus built around CBD, including the James New York NoMad hotel, which has a wide array of CBD-infused foods, from spicy meatballs to a butter lettuce salad to an ice cream sundae. Others are using CBD in cocktails, craft beer and of course, sweets.

So, why not jump on this trend? Well, it's complicated.


The FDA says it's illegal, for one thing, prohibiting the addition of CBD to prepared foods. So, how are all of these restaurants doing it? Some states are more strict in enforcement than others. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Pennsylvania and New Jersey see wiggle room in the law and are taking a laissez-faire approach." Don't ask, don't tell, in other words.

Also, even though CBD is extracted from cannabis, it doesn't get anyone high, and it's hurting no one, proponents say, so why not just call it good?

The FDA may do just that. Its stance on CBD is on shifting sands, and proponents predict within a very short time, all the ambiguity surrounding is-it-or-isn't-it-legal will be cleared up.

If you're interested in adding CBD to your menu, see what other foodservice businesses in your state are doing and follow their lead.

No matter what you do, it's worth a look. If the idea does grow exponentially later on, you'll be in — or out — on the ground floor.

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