Menu development to drive healthier eating choices is a focus for most foodservice operators, but particularly so for those in the education sector where the power that caterers have to influence menu choice has been laid bare by a recent landmark study.
Specialist caterer Chartwells carried out research to see if there were techniques linked to menu presentation and guidance that could be deployed to drive healthier eating in secondary schools.
And it discovered that caterers in the education market could influence pupils to make healthier food choices through the use of subtle ‘nudges’.
Due to the success of the pilot, which saw an average increase of 8% in the take-up of healthier choices, it is now introducing a new customised menu to its portfolio of approximately 450 secondary schools.
With the aim of establishing what ‘nudges’ influenced pupils to choose healthier dishes, Chartwells trialled the scheme in 15 secondary schools, where it serves around 7,500 school meals every day.
School menus were tailored to include a number of ‘nudging’ techniques. These included red ‘heart’ stickers next to the more nutritious menu options to draw attention to the dishes; adjectives relating to texture, taste or smell describing the healthier choices; nutritionists’ picks positioned at the top of menus, placed at point-of-sale and promoted on posters, as well as being part of a loyalty card scheme; and educating students about healthy eating via workshops and health stalls.
To measure the impact, schools were divided between those that had one of the nudges, those that had all of the nudges and then schools which acted as the ‘control’ group who had no changes made to the menu.
The most successful nudge, aptly named ‘Follow Your Heart’, increased sales by 8%.
The results demonstrate that the use of behavioural insights can instigate a real shift in eating habits, which in the case of the younger generation could have a big impact on futures.
It also reinforces the power that the catering industry has to truly affect positive change.