Voice of the Restaurant Industry
One of the primary arguments for providing calorie information at restaurants is that it will help people make better choices. As Americans continue to expand at the waist, we're seeing that while knowledge might be power, it's not enough to alter decisions.
A new study from Health Affairs found that if offered the choice to downsize a portion of their meal, customers will do so at least part of the time. It takes prompting from servers -- just a little nudge -- to get patrons to think more about their food intake.
It's no secret that portions in America are super sized compared to much of the world. We're used to heaping portions and often want to make sure that we're "getting our money's worth". While what we put into our mouths is ultimately up to us, restaurants have the responsibility to offer the choice to downsize -- or as Tulane University Marketing Professor Jane Schwartz calls "rightsizing".
Restaurant chains across America are always looking for ways to do good. Some give back to the community by donating to local charities. Other join forces with organization to bring awareness to this or that health issue. I'm convinced, though, that portion size is the third rail of the restaurant industry. Like Social Security in the political world, portion size is something restaurants want to sweep under the rug. Most often because the portions sizes make for great profits. Using the excuse that consumers demand these big portions is a cop out and doesn't cut it in my book.
As I wrote about a few weeks ago, Go Halfsies is an initiative that seeks to do good and encourages Americans to opt for half the usual portion. I'm convinced that reducing portion size can be done without government mandate. It just takes leadership in the restaurant industry to talk about the unspeakable: portion size! Maybe not in 2012 or 2013, but hopefully we'll see rightsizing become a trend sooner rather than later.