Delay that takeaway

Grocery shopping when hungry isn’t a good idea because high calorie foods become more tempting. But researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University, both in the US, believe the rule should also extend to buying food in restaurants and canteens.

“Our results show that ordering meals when you’re already hungry and ready to eat leads to an overall increase in the number of calories ordered, and suggest that by ordering meals in advance, the likelihood of making indulgent purchases is drastically reduced,” said lead author Eric VanEpps, lead author of a new study published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

“The implication,” he continued, “is that restaurants and other food providers can generate health benefits for their customers by offering the opportunity to place advance orders.”

VanEpps and his team conducted two field studies examining online lunch orders of 690 employees using an onsite corporate cafeteria, and a third study with 195 university students selecting among catered lunch options.

Across all three studies, the researchers noted that meals with higher calorie content were ordered and consumed when there were shorter (or no) waiting periods between ordering and eating.

The meals for students ordering in advance contained more than 100 calories less (890), on average, than those ordered at lunchtime (999). The results have implications for addressing obesity, the researchers said.

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