Asking To Downsize Diner’s Portions Works
February 10, 2012 by UPI - United Press International, Inc.
NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 9 (UPI) — Posting calories of food may not deter diners from overeating, but U.S. researchers said asking diners if they want smaller portions was more effective.
Lead study author Janet Schwartz of Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business and colleagues found when servers asked customers whether they’d like to “downsize” starchy side dishes at a Chinese fast-food restaurant as many as a third gladly cut back — cutting an average 200 calories each meal.
“Our goal was to test whether the invitation to downsize a meal component would be embraced by consumers and, importantly, whether the approach would be more effective than a purely information-based approach — in this case calorie labeling,” Schwartz said in a statement.
Schwartz and fellow researchers conducted several field experiments at a single Chinese fast-food restaurant. In each case, servers asked customers selecting side dishes, “Would you like to save 200 calories or more by taking a smaller portion?”
In one scenario, customers were offered a 25-cent discount if they took the downsizing offer. In another, menu calorie labels were prominently displayed in front of consumers as they selected their meals and in another calorie labels were removed.
The study, published in Health Affairs, found anywhere from 14 percent to 33 percent of customers opted to downsize portions, but the 25-cent discount had little impact on downsizing choices and the calorie postings didn’t persuade many either.