The Restaurant of the Future was the setting for several nudging studies into food choice behaviour focused on the influence of environmental variables such as aromas and images. The results show the effects of changing light and aroma, but not always as one would expect. The aroma of vanilla, for example, did not result in more people choosing vanilla desserts, but instead to an increased choice of meat/fish meals over combination meals such as fried rice. Additionally, photos of salads did not lead to an increased choice of salads but to a reduced choice of desserts.
Another Restaurant of the Future nudging research project analysed whether a healthier lunch choice could be stimulated by offering free samples of either a healthier fruit snack or an unhealthier fried snack beforehand. The free snack did influence the subsequent lunch selection and led to a larger food intake but did not nudge consumers towards a healthier or less healthy choice.
Finally, the food choice of visitors was studied by comparing sandwiches freshly made in accordance with the wishes of the consumer to sandwiches that were made in advance. Both types of sandwiches appealed to different groups of visitors, in which the ‘freshly made’ consumer was generally older, slightly heavier and less neophobic (fearful of new things).
To increase the effectiveness of nudges, follow-up research should be focused on understanding the individual differences between consumers regarding the effect of nudges.
Wijk, R.A. de et. al /2012. Flavour, 1:24