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Order of meals affects student cafeteria vegetarian sales

Image: Romnshka, Food sandwich sardine, Pixabay,Pixabay Licence

This paper co-authored by FCRN member Emma Garnett finds that placing vegetarian options first on the counter of student cafeterias increases their sales by 5-6% when the different options are widely spaced (>1.5m), but not when the options are close together (<1.0m).

See also the FCRN’s summary of Emma Garnett’s paper Impact of increasing vegetarian availability on meal selection and sales in cafeterias.



Altering the order in which meals are presented at cafeteria counters has been proposed as a way of lowering meat consumption, but remains largely untested. To address this, we undertook two experimental studies involving 105,143 meal selections in the cafeterias of a British university. Placing vegetarian options first on the counter consistently increased their sales when choices were widely separated (>1.5 m; vegetarian sales as a percentage of total meal sales increased by 4.6 and 6.2 percentage points) but there was no evidence of an effect when the options were close together (<1.0 m). This suggests that order effects depend on the physical distance between options.



Garnett, E.E., Marteau, T.M., Sandbrook, C., Pilling, M.A. and Balmford, A., 2020. Order of meals at the counter and distance between options affect student cafeteria vegetarian sales. Nature Food, 1(8), pp.485-488.


Read the full paper here or here (PDF link). See also the Foodsource resource What can be done to shift eating patterns in healthier, more sustainable directions?

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