redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Despite concerns that they would lose customers if forced to provide dietary information to customers, chain restaurants are actually more likely to be frequented by customers if they disclose the nutritional content of their products and offer healthier menu choices, according to a recently published study.
Researchers from Penn State University and the University of Tennessee recruited 277 frequent restaurant patrons and presented them with a variety of different scenarios to determine whether or not those individuals preferred access to nutritional information and/or healthier food options. Their findings were published in last month’s edition of the International Journal of Hospitality Management.
Each participant was asked to read sample menus that presented each possible scenario. Next, they answered a series of questions related to how they perceived the restaurant’s attitude and corporate social responsibility, as well as their own willingness to eat at each establishment and how health conscious they tended to be.
The study authors discovered that when participants were provided with a scenario in which a restaurant offered nutritional information and included healthier food products on its menu, those people were significantly more likely to view that restaurant as a socially responsible entity.
“The Affordable Care Act has mandated that chain restaurants – those with more than 20 restaurants – provide nutrition information to customers,” said associate professor of hospitality management David Cranage. “Many restaurants had been fighting this legislation because they thought they would lose customers if the customers knew how unhealthy their food was.”
“In this study, we found that customers perceive restaurants to be socially responsible when they are provided with nutrition facts and healthful options and, therefore, are more likely to patronize those restaurants,” he added. “In other words, the participants developed a favorable attitude toward the restaurant and wanted to visit it more frequently.”
Furthermore, Cranage and his colleagues found that men and women who said that they were health conscious were more likely than non-health conscious people to view a restaurant that provided healthy food options as socially responsible. However, when a restaurant allowed them to see nutritional information, both health conscious and non-health conscious people were more likely to view that establishment as socially responsible.
“These results suggest that highly health-conscious people are more sensitive to being able to obtain healthful foods at restaurants than less health-conscious people, regardless of whether or not nutrition information is provided,” said Cranage. “We believe that providing healthful foods and nutrition information can improve a restaurant’s image.”
“Often, managers must choose between profitability and social responsibility when making decisions,” he added. “However, results of this study indicate that deciding to provide nutrition information and healthful food items yields benefits from both perspectives. Based on results of this study, restaurateurs may make an easy decision to increase more healthful items on their menu while simultaneously increasing the image of their business.”