Every week we comb through the news to find employment trends affecting the hospitality industry so you don’t have to. This week’s topic: the use of CBD in the restaurant industry.  

CBD in the Restaurant Industry

Over the past few years, we’ve started seeing a rise of CBD in the restaurant industry: being included on menu items at restaurants, bars, and cafés. Known commonly as CBD, cannabidiol “is an essential component of medical marijuana, it is derived directly from the hemp plant.” Although CBD is technically a cousin of the marijuana plant, the World Health Organization reports “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.” 

Typically ingested via an oil, CBD in the restaurant industry is growing as more businesses are taking a creative approach by infusing it into food and drink. The rise in popularity of this oil comes due to its purported health benefits, which are reported to include 

  • Calming or anxiety-reducing effects 
  • Pain relief 
  • Sleep and/or insomnia aid 
  • Ease muscle soreness 
  • Anti-inflammatory properties 

Because of the broad spectrum of CBD’s supposed benefits, it’s become more popular as an additive in drinks like coffee or tea, seltzer, or baked goods. Although CBD is currently only found on less than 1% of menus in the U.S., “its presence has increased by a whopping 2,999% over the past four years, mainly at health-focused concepts with drink options aimed at giving customers a calming effect.” While 1% restaurants only reflect a couple thousand locations, Greenwave Advisors (a marijuana research firm) predicts that CBD-infused foods will grow to be a $3 billion industry in 2021.  

The expected rise of CBD in the restaurant industry will likely lead to revenue growth and increased customer engagement (due in some part to intrigue over the semi-rare ingredient), but it comes with a caveat: the FDA has not legalized the use of cannabidiol in foods or drinks.  

The main reason CBD hasn’t been broadly legalized as an additive in foods is because of its’ unknown long-term effects when mixed with other components in various productsThough all 50 states have legalized the use of CBD in one way or anotherits’ use in food and beverages is currently prohibited, regardless of the fact that the FDA does little to reinforce this law. This is their official stance on the matter, according to their website 

FDA recognizes the potential opportunities that cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds may offer and acknowledges the significant interest in these possibilities. However, FDA is aware that some companies are marketing products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and that may put the health and safety of consumers at risk. The agency is committed to protecting the public health while also taking steps to improve the efficiency of regulatory pathways for the lawful marketing of appropriate cannabis and cannabis-derived products. 

Here are our key takeaways:  

  • While the use of CBD in food products is illegal, consumers are drawn to its reported benefits – showing they’re comfortable with the lack of available research regarding long-term side effects from ingestion.  
  • The FDA’s lack of strict enforcement means businesses around the country are producing and selling CBD-infused products regardless of its legal status.  
  • We can expect to see continued growth of CBD offerings in the restaurant industry, especially as more states legalize its cousin, THC.  

In a year where so many restaurants have lost revenue, businesses are getting creative when looking to attract customers. As the FDA continues to do research, we can assume more and more hospitality venues will begin infusing their menus with this (allegedly) versatile extract. 


Disclaimer: This story discusses substances that are legal in some places but not in others and is for informational purposes only –– not for the purpose of providing legal advice. This story does not endorse or encourage illegal drug use. The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.