PRESS RELEASE: The food service industry plays a major role in a ‘greener’ eating pattern of guest

Wageningen research: better supply of vegetables changes our behavior when we go out to eat.
Eight tips to increase the consumption of vegetables of restaurant guests

Wageningen, 3 January 2019- Restaurant visitors eat up to 113% more vegetables and up to 13% less meat or fish if offered smart, attractive and high quality ingredient dishes. The scores of the guest’s satisfaction remain the same or even rise. This has been demonstrated in four scientific studies, at nine food establishments, by Wageningen Economic Research, the Louis Bolk Institute, and consultancy firm Greendish.

Research with large national players in the food service industry

The surveys were done in real restaurants with real guests; from sandwich lunch to a-la-carte, from station brasserie to a dinner buffet and from company restaurants in a ministry to a steel factory. Some examples of food services involved in the studies are Eurest, Van der Valk, HMSHost, Van Gelder Groente & Fruit, Koninklijke Horeca Nederland, Unilever, The Greenery, and Rabobank. The original dish was exchanged with an alternative one containing more vegetables that were prepared and presented more attractively. At the same time, the portion of meat or fish was reduced. Guest satisfaction was measured before and after the adjustments. The results are convincing. After adjustments, guests consumed up to 113% more vegetables and up to 13% less meat or fish. Guests were at least as satisfied with the dish and their restaurant visit in both conditions. The appreciation of the taste, presentation and amount of vegetables went up in three of the four studies, while the amount of satisfaction for the meat remained the same in all studies.

Eight practical tips from the research:
  1. Add color and taste with garnishes. Garnish will be eaten more if it’s more tasty, colorful and varied. 
  2. A salad buffet with truly fresh, varied and colorful offering will be eaten twice as much. 
  3. Sandwiches can contain much less meat or fish if the flavor combination and vegetable variation are improved. 
  4. Make your vegetables attractive by treating them with the same respect you treat your meat, use techniques such as: marinating, grilling, stewing or brining. Be creative! 
  5. Make it easy for your kitchen team and think in number of slices, grams, spoons etc. and adjust order units. 
  6. Measuring is the key! Use a scale to monitor the quality and quantity of dishes or sandwiches and save costs by checking waste. 
  7. Avoid doing everything yourself and think about the long run results. Make a project out of it, make someone responsible and do it in small but steady steps. 
  8. If you work for a larger organization, contact those involved in earlier studies that save time and money.

These smart menu adjustments help guests unconsciously eat the recommended daily amount of vegetables. And just as important, our planet also benefits; the adjustment results in a reduced CO2 footprint due to less meat. On the Horecava in Amsterdam, from 7 to 10 January, the results of this research will be presented and food services will be offered various ‘ready-to-cook’ solutions with which they can start implementing new ideas immediately.

Joris Heijnen of Greendish, inventor of the research and the method used to adapt the menus smartly and sustainably (Sustainable Menu Engineering): “For seven years we have been helping hospitality entrepreneurs to apply this method. At that time we were perhaps ahead of our time, but now the need for healthy and sustainable food is so strong that mainstream restaurants also follow the trend. Soon, the trend of eating more vegetables and less meat could become the “new normal”. I am very pleased that we have now established scientifically that it works in so many different settings, eating moments and types of restaurants.”.

Food Value Impact: Future

For this research, scientists, government, food suppliers and producers, and food service entrepreneurs joined forces with the aim of tempting guests to eat better, more sustainable and healthier food in the future. Gert-Jan van der Valk of Van der Valk, where Wageningen Economic Research and Greendish conducted research in 2016, strongly believes in the principles of Sustainable Menu Engineering: “The food service industry plays a major role in making the food supply more sustainable. If the entire industry were to participate, sustainability would be promoted step by step and the guest would also leave more satisfied”.

Food Value Impact: the background

The studies were carried out independently in 2017 and 2018 by Wageningen Economic Research, the Louis Bolk Institute and Greendish. This research is part of a public-private partnership (Food Value Impact) of nineteen partners, consisting of knowledge institutions, companies, and non-profit organizations. The research is co-financed by the Top Sector Agri & Food and the Top Sector Tuinbouw & Uitgangsmaterialen and is a follow-up to the study carried out by Reinders et al. (2017).

Read more: https://www.wur.nl/ and https://greendish.org/en/research/