Dieting is a funny business, as behavioural economists have long known. About 70% of consumers booking a table in a restaurant, for instance, say they will be choosing a meal from the “healthy options” menu, but only about 5% actually do when they arrive. Scrap the healthy options, though, and they book a table elsewhere!
Fast food outlets get a lot of stick and, certainly, they are a massive part of the problem. All of the main brands do try to do their bit, however, but it just doesn’t seem to work. Take Burger King as an example. The miami-based chain has had to withdraw its “low fat” fries as a result of disappointing sales, even though they were heavily demanded by consumers in the firm’s original market research.
So, what can we do about all this? Well, i’d be much wealthier if I knew the answer to that one! We need to keep in mind that consumers like the idea of eating a healthy diet and losing weight, but not if it means actually dieting for real or planning their menus carefully. So, more subtle techniques (e.g. smaller portions/plates) are much more effective than well-crafted health messages and low-fat menu options. Seems the only way to help consumers is to sometimes fool them…for their own good, naturally!