How Consumers Respond to Calorie Information on Their Menus
Providing consumers with calorie information improves the accuracy of post-meal estimates of calorie counts by about 4 percent, or 65 calories.
Listing calorie counts on restaurant menus reduces the likelihood that diners will underestimate the number of calories in their orders, according to
Alex M. Susskind, and
Barton Willage. Their study, Does Information Disclosure Improve Consumer Knowledge? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment of Restaurant Menu Calorie Labels (NBER Working Paper 27126), explores the impact of a 2018 national requirement that chain restaurants with 20 or more locations provide consumers with calorie information.
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The researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial in a sit-down restaurant on a college campus. The study included 1,546 participants. Parties of restaurant patrons were randomized to either a control group, which received menus without calorie information, or a treatment group, which received menus with calorie counts. At the end of the meal, a researcher asked the study participants to provide demographic information as well as their estimate of the number of calories in their meal. This estimate was then compared with the actual number of calories in the meal that the participant had ordered, based on their receipt. The calorie counts were sourced from MenuCalc, software based on the US Department of Agriculture nutritional database.
— Jennifer Roche
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