Restaurant clientele eat up to 113% more vegetables and up to 13% less meat or fish if the restaurant owner offers high-quality greens in a well-thought-out and attractive fashion. The client's opinion of the restaurant either remains the same or improves. This was shown in four scientific studies at nine eating facilities done by Wageningen Economic Research, the Louis Bolk Institute and consultancy firm Greendish.
A clever adjustment to the menu helps restaurant clientele to unconsciously eat the daily recommended amount of vegetables. And, equally important, our planet also profits: the adjustment results in a smaller CO2 footprint as a result of less meat and a comparable amount of waste. "It's encouraging to see that, with just small adjustments to a meal, you can make a major impact on the environment," says Joris Heijnen of Greendish, the initiator of both the study and the method of making clever and sustainable changes to the menu. "If every restaurant and people at home apply the principles of this study, we can bring society a step closer to the climate goals set in Paris!"
Study at major national players in Restaurant and Catering branch
The studies were done in eight restaurants with real clients. The facilities ranged from a sandwich bar to a-la-carte, from a brasserie at the station to a dinner buffet and from in-house restaurants at a ministry to a steel factory. Parties involved in the studies included Eurest, Van der Valk, HMSHost, fruit and vegetable specialist Van Gelder, Koninklijke Horeca Nederland, Unilever, The Greenery and Rabobank. The original dishes were replaced by an alternative for which more vegetables were more attractively prepared and presented. The amount of meat or fish offered was simultaneously reduced.
Subsequently, the clients' food consumption, waste and satisfaction both before and after the menu changes were measured. The figures are convincing. After changes were made – depending on the setting – clients ate up to 113% more vegetables and up to 13% less meat or fish. Clients were just as satisfied with their meals. In fact, the clients' opinions of taste, presentation and the amount of vegetables increased in three of the four studies and remained the same for the amount of meat offered.
The future: joining forces for health and sustainability
In this study, scientists, government agencies, food suppliers and producers and owners of eating facilities bundled their strengths in order to tempt the consumer to practice tastier, more sustainable and healthier eating patterns. Gert-Jan van der Valk of Van der Valk Hotels & Restaurants, where Wageningen Economic Research and Greendish did earlier studies in 2016, is a strong believer in the principles of Sustainable Menu Engineering: "The restaurant and catering sector plays a large role in making choices more sustainable; if the entire branch participated, sustainability would be gradually introduced and the client would be even more satisfied."
Food Value Impact: the background
The studies were done independently in 2017 and 2018 by Wageningen Economic Research, the Louis Bolk Institute and Greendish. This is part of a public-private collaborative venture (Food Value Impact) by 19 partners, including knowledge institutes, companies and non-profit organisations. The study, which was partially financed by the Agri & Food and Horticulture and Starting Materials top sectors, is a follow-up to the study done by Reinders et al. (2017).