• Three Proven “Nudges” That Influence Meat-Eaters to Order Vegan Options



    Meat-eaters can be influenced into choosing plant-based options in restaurants depending on certain factors such as innovation and novelty. According to recent studies, many consumer food decisions are motivated by non-rational social and contextual factors. Strategies that are applied to manipulate such factors and influence customers choices are often referred to as ‘nudges’.

    Foodservice “can contribute to the desired societal shift towards mainstream consumption of foods with lower environmental impact.”

    Through nudging strategies, omnivores can be motivated to choose plant-based options at the supermarket, in restaurants, or when shopping for food online. The following three methods have been demonstrated to nudge customers into choosing plant-based options in restaurants, having already shown success in scientific studies.

    1. Presenting a plant-based option as the default choice

    A Danish study published in the Journal of Public Health in 2019 investigated the effect of nudging people into choosing vegetarian food options. The study was conducted during three conferences in Denmark, where a vegetarian food option was described as the default menu choice to the participants. Among the groups of participants to whom the vegetarian menu was described as the default option, over 80% chose the vegetarian option, while merely 10% chose the vegetarian menu in the other groups.

    scandic-taff-kitchen Scandic Hotels
    ©Scandic Hotels
    1. Overshadowing meat dishes with plant-based menu options

    According to a British study that was published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology in 2022, omnivores were much more likely to choose a vegan or vegetarian menu option when given a menu in which 75% of the options were plant-based. Even though most omnivores were found to prefer meat dishes, their decision could be influenced with modifications to the decision environment. However, it is advisable to offer customers a limited selection of meat dishes, as a 75/25 ratio between plant-based and meat dishes was found to be the most effective way to nudge carnivores into choosing plant-based.

    1. Innovative meal design as a strategy to promote plant-based dishes

    Published in the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science in 2021, a Danish study investigated innovative meal design as a strategy to promote plant-based dishes. Within the study, the menu card advertised a plant-based option as the dish-of-the-day with a specific indication that customers could ask for other options, but those were not shown on the intervention menu card. The study found that menu design, including the visual design of the menu, have a large influence on customers food choices, as 85% of participants chose the plant-based dish-of-the-day. 

    Planty
    ©Planty

    The studies show that, in addition to education around healthy and sustainable eating, nudging strategies can be successfully used to make carnivores choose plant-based menu options.

    By facilitating the menu options through nudging strategies, Federico J.A. Perez-Cueto at the University of Copenhagen found that the foodservice sector “can contribute to the desired societal shift towards mainstream consumption of foods with lower environmental impact.”

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