NEWS13 September 2019

Veggie orders pushed up with menu tweaks

Behavioural science News UK

UK – Simple adjustments to lunch menus can have a significant impact on the number of people who choose vegetarian options, according to research from The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT).

Vegetarian wrap_crop

Unveiled at the Behavioural Exchange (BX2019 ) conference in London last week, the study wanted to find ways of encouraging more sustainable food choices and there is broad consensus among environmental scientists that a meat-free diet is the single biggest way to reduce your individual impact on Earth.

The research measured the effectiveness of differently designed menus for BX conference delegates, attempting to increase the vegetarian choices made for lunch. An alternative version of the menu, informed by behavioural science, was shown to half the delegates at the conference.

This menu was adapted by using more indulgent language for the plant-based options and avoided terms like ‘vegetarian’ and ‘meat-free', which are known to be unappealing to meat eaters; integrated the veggie options into the list (not separated into their own section) and put them first; and included a background image of a vegetarian dish, rather than a meat dish.

The combined effect of these small changes was a 23% increase in the proportion of items ordered which were vegetarian, rising from 47.3% to 58.3%.

Toby Park, senior adviser, energy & sustainability, at BIT, said: “Small changes to the ‘choice architecture’ – the setting, framing and design of our immediate environments – can have surprisingly big impacts on our choices. Re-designing menus is an easy way to do this, and achieve really worthwhile environmental benefits.”