EXPERIMENT 3: Inviting Consumers to Downsize Fast-Food Portions Significantly Reduces Calorie Consumption

Consumers report that they often overeat, and would be happy to receive smaller portions in restaurants. And yet, it is extremely rare for restaurant patrons to explicitly request a smaller meal.


We worked with Panda Express to intervene in the ordering process and invite customers to take a smaller portion of their side dish – for either no discount or a nominal discount. We compared this intervention with the addition of calorie labels.


We found that while calorie labels had no effect on decreasing the amount of calories that customers ordered and subsequently ate, a simple prompt from the restaurant server (“Would you like to take a half portion of your side dish?”) led to up to a third of customers accepting the offer. Those who accepted the offer ate at least 200 fewer calories than those who did not. Overall, we found that this simple verbal offer to downsize one’s meal was not only embraced by consumers, but led to healthier consumption decisions – and it made no perceptible difference whether a small or no discount was offered.

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