US consumers prefer restaurants offering nutrition facts and ‘healthful’ foods
US consumers were more likely to frequent restaurants that provided both ‘healthful’ foods and nutrition information, according to research from Penn State University and the University of Tennessee.
The research, which was published in the February 2014 issue of the International Journal of Hospitality Management, found that participants developed a more favourable attitude to restaurants they perceived as more “socially responsible”.
“The Affordable Care Act has mandated that chain restaurants — those with more than 20 restaurants — provide nutrition information to customers,” said David Cranage, Associate Professor of Hospitality Management at Penn State University. “Many restaurants had been fighting this legislation because they thought they would lose customers if the customers knew how unhealthy their food was,” he said.
“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 patronise those restaurants,” Professor Cranage said.
“We believe that providing healthful foods and nutrition information can improve a restaurant’s image,” Professor Cranage said. “Often managers must choose between profitability and social responsibility when making decisions. However, results of this study indicate that deciding to provide nutrition information and healthful food items yields benefits from both perspectives,” he said.
“Based on the 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,” Professor Cranage said.
The researchers presented 277 participants with various scenarios, including the presence or absence of nutrition information and the presence or absence of healthful foods. The participants read example menus presenting these scenarios and answered questions about their perception of the restaurant’s corporate social responsibility, their attitude, their willingness to select the restaurants and their health-consciousness.
When participants were presented with a scenario in which a restaurant presented nutrition information and served healthful food options, the participants were significantly more likely to perceive that the restaurant was socially responsible.
“In other words, the participants developed a favourable attitude toward the restaurant and wanted to visit it more frequently,” Professor Cranage said.
In addition, the team found that participants who were highly health-conscious were more likely than low-health conscious people to think that the restaurant was socially responsible when it provided healthful food options. However, when exposed to nutrition information, participants perceived the restaurant to be socially responsible, regardless of their level of health-consciousness.
“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,” Professor Cranage said.
Other authors on the paper included Kiwon Lee, Assistant Professor of Hospitality Management at the University of Tennessee; Martha Conklin, Associate Professor of Hospitality Management at Penn State University; and Seoki Lee, Assistant Professor of Hospitality Management at Penn State University.