National Salt Reduction Initiative

Restaurant Food

The NSRI has developed targets to guide company reductions in the sodium levels in 25 categories of restaurant food, ranging from biscuits to burritos. The initiative includes voluntary 2012 and 2014 targets for average sodium levels in each food category as well as a maximum sodium level for all items served in restaurants. The categories and targets grew out of a yearlong series of technical meetings with food industry leaders. Some popular products already meet these targets—a clear indication that they are achievable.

When a restaurant signs on to the initiative, it pledges that its overall sales in a given category—cheeseburgers, for example—will meet the relevant target for sodium content, even if some individual products don't. For example, a company selling three equally popular types of cheeseburgers could keep one of them higher in sodium as long as its overall cheeseburger sales meet the target. A restaurant that commits to the maximum, commits to keeping sodium levels per serving in all items below that threshold. If restaurants work in tandem to reduce average sodium content, consumers will enjoy the health benefits without a noticeable difference in taste.

Company Commitments to the NSRI Restaurant Food Targets

The NSRI applauds the restaurant and foodservice companies that have committed to reduce sodium in their menu items to meet the NSRI restaurant food targets and encourages all companies to follow their example. The following companies have agreed to work toward restaurant food targets:

  • Au Bon Pain
  • Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant
  • McCain Foods (foodservice)
  • Starbucks Coffee Company
  • Subway®
  • Uno Chicago Grill

Full list of NSRI Restaurant Food Targets (PDF)

NSRI Commitment Process

All restaurants were encouraged to commit to the restaurant targets and per-serving maximum for 2014. Participating companies agreed to “work toward meeting the NSRI targets” in specific food categories, “through a transparent, public process.” In addition:

  • The NSRI website will publicly recognize companies that agree to work toward sodium-reduction targets
  • Each commitment indicates that a company will work to meet the NSRI target for a particular food category by a specified date. Companies can meet targets without eliminating all high-sodium products. The goal is sell a mix of products that, when weighted for sales volume, has an average sodium level at or below the NSRI target.
  • Companies made commitments in all or some of the categories in which they sell products. The NSRI encourages companies to pursue as many targets as possible.

The NSRI understands that restaurants without a standardized menu may have difficulty committing to the restaurant targets. However, all restaurants can reduce sodium in the food they serve. One important step is to purchase lower sodium ingredients that meet the NSRI Packaged Food Targets (PDF). Restaurants can also ask their food distributors for lower sodium products.

For more information about the NSRI, please email