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Tell people to be healthier, and they might not take action. Tell them to leave off the mayo on their sandwich, and they’ll be more likely to actually do it.

People are more likely to pay attention and follow suggestions if they are given specific steps to take, as psychology experts have shown. So what if restaurant receipts told consumers more about their food choices and offered them healthier suggestions? Would people actually read the receipts and follow the advice?

As reported by Bloomberg, SmartReceipt Inc. has developed a Nutricate receipt (meaning “to nutritionally educate”) that provides people with information about the meal they purchased, including total calories, fats, carbohydrates, and protein. The receipt (see one here) also gives specific tips based on the order, like telling the consumer to choose apples next time with a kid’s meal.

The receipts are already in use, and they have made a significant impact on people’s orders. A report (PDF) by economists at the University of California at Santa Barbara discusses the use of the receipts at Burgerville, a Pacific Northwest restaurant chain. The study spans more than two years and involved sales data from 39 Burgervilles.

I’m surprised so many consumers read the suggestions: Apparently 91 percent read most or all of their receipts. The restaurant saw the following changes:

  • Customers became more likely to purchase kids’ meals with apples instead of fries
  • Customers selected more breakfast sandwiches without sausage
  • Customers requested main course items without cheese or sauce
  • A 20 percent increase in healthier desserts
  • A 12 percent increase in orders for salads

The receipt also achieved a 2.1 percent reduction in the average amount of cholesterol per transaction. However, there was no statistically significant effect on total calories per transaction.

Restaurant owners might be interested to know they found no evidence that the receipt reduced total sales. Also, 84 percent of customers liked or loved the receipts.

Giving people more information about food is good. But some important facts are left out, like how much sodium is in each item? And what about saturated fat content? Also, many people probably don’t know how many calories they should be consuming per meal.

At OneGreenPlanet, we’re all about helping people make better choices for their health, animals, and the planet, so if this helps people make better choices, we’re intrigued by this idea. But fast food still isn’t the healthiest choice. And some restaurants might use Nutricate as a marketing strategy to convince consumers they are trying to be healthier without actually making better menu items.

So, can restaurant receipts help people make better food choices? It seems they can, although even better choices would be to stay home and fix a quick meal with mostly veggies and a little protein, to plan ahead and take food with you when you’re on the go, or to dine out at healthier restaurants.

 Image Source: Quinn Dumbrowski / Flickr

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12 comments on “Can Restaurant Receipts Help People Make Better Food Choices?”

Click to add comment
Destiny Henkel
4 Years Ago

No no no NO. Forcing this information on consumers without knowing their mental health can be detrimental. How many people with eating disorders have gone out to a restaurant for the first time in weeks, proudly, only to have the calorie info shoved under their noses the second they open their menus, or pay their bill. This isn't ingenious, this is thoughtless.

Joanne Bouchard
4 Years Ago

The only way it can help is if those receipts suggested staying at home and enjoying a home cooked meal instead of fast food.

Kelly Viterna
4 Years Ago

Needs to be on the menu, not the receipt.

Nicola Ní Seighin
4 Years Ago

Perhaps there is no mobile version for the website which is why it doesn't load properly. On pc its fine. As far as food goes, when exactly do we as adults take responsibility for our choices? Most of us are perfectly aware of what is good and what isn't. If you suffer illness and disease (heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, some cancers, arthritis, etc) then chances are you are not eating properly or exercising. Animal protein is the main culprit, obesity which comes with it. USA and UK are the two fattest countries in the Western Hemisphere, we didn't get like that by accident, and you can't miss us. Doesn't that make people question their diet?

Laura Schleifer
4 Years Ago

Giving the information before provides the diner with opportunity to make an informed decision. Giving it afterwards just seems like scolding and shaming.

Melissa Duarte
4 Years Ago

People are complaining ...lol it displays fine!! Maybe it's the piece of technology, they are using.

Cheryl Curley Waters
4 Years Ago

Couldn't read the article. A large search window appears in the middle of my screen with "trending" "follow" 'Popular" sections. Annoying!

Barbie Mo
4 Years Ago

Displays fine for me too

Pat Loflin
4 Years Ago

I would rather have the information before I order not after I've eaten.

John Hansen
4 Years Ago

Displays fine for me.


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