Are you getting a ton of salad orders at your restaurant? Eating in moderation—both at home and when dining out—is one of the biggest keys to weight management. When combined with exercise, you have a real recipe for success in a healthy lifestyle, and healthier menu options are a major trend in the restaurant industry today.
That’s why we were intrigued by a recent study published in the American Journal of Consumer Research. Entitled “The Effect of Preference Expression Modality on Self-Control,” the study looks at how methods of ordering from menus influence the healthiness of food selections. Variations during the study’s research included giving a menu selection orally, writing down a selection, and pressing a button to order a food item.
Ordering Method Matters
Across various settings—including a restaurant, vending machine, and classroom—the researchers found the same result. When food selections were made manually, either by writing or button-pushing, participants were likelier to choose the healthier, lower-calorie option. For example, during dinner service at a Greek restaurant in Cologne, Germany, diners were given a choice between two complementary desserts: an indulgent chocolate skewer or a healthy fruit skewer. When they indicated their preference by pressing a button, they were likelier to order the fruit. But when speaking to waitstaff, more people chose the chocolate version.
Are you surprised by these findings? The study authors—who hail from Tilburg University and Maastricht University in The Netherlands as well as Stanford University in the United States—were not. Based on previous neuroscientific research, they had predicted that speaking is less likely to evoke self-control than motor movements. That’s because motor movements activate a different region of the brain, one that is more capable of overriding impulses. In other words, using one’s hand to place an order seems to trigger the brain to weigh long-term goals. The result is that unhealthy urges are regulated.
Clearly, this groundbreaking study has important implications for restaurateurs, not to mention a few ethical ones. Namely, you can affect consumer choice—and even increase self-control—simply based on the method of ordering. So maybe the question to ask yourself is this: How does the health of your customers fit into your restaurant philosophy? If it is a big part of your mission to give healthy options to your customers, this research is going to take your restaurant far.
Read more about restaurants and iPads here.
Ethically Giving Better Options to Customers
If your restaurant has a vision of giving customers healthier options for dining, using tablets for placing an order gives the customer more control. There are some simple tricks you can use to make ordering selections for special diets a breeze.
Your business will stand out in the crowd by offering healthy options that keep your community safe. Show what you stand for by making your menu options clear and labeling nutritional value.
Color Coding Menu Options by Nutritional Value
Try including a key on the main menu page to show patrons what each color symbol means based on their dietary needs.
- Vegetarian Options
- relating to the exclusion of meat or other animal products from the diet
- Vegan Options
- using or containing no animal products
- Gluten-Free Options
- not containing gluten
- Ketogenic Diets
- a low-carb diet (like the Atkins diet)
- Paleo Diets
- This is derived from the word Paleolithic and is tied to food cavemen would have eaten
- Diabetic-Safe and sugar-free options
- Diabetic options for desserts are a must-have on any restaurant menu