Does Information Disclosure Improve Consumer Knowledge? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment of Restaurant Menu Calorie Labels
The United States, in 2018, implemented a nationwide requirement that chain restaurants disclose calorie information on their menus and menu boards. This law was motivated by concern that consumers underestimate the number of calories in restaurant food, but it remains unclear the extent to which this information disclosure affects consumer knowledge. This paper fills that gap by estimating the impact of information disclosure on consumer knowledge through a randomized controlled field experiment of calorie labels on the menus of a full-service restaurant. The results indicate that information disclosure significantly reduces the extent to which consumers underestimate the number of calories in restaurant food; the labels improve the accuracy of consumers’ post-meal estimates of the number of calories they ordered by 4.0 percent and reduces by 28.9% the probability of underestimating the calories in one’s meal by 50% or more, both of which are statistically significant. However, even after information disclosure, there remains considerable error in consumer beliefs about the calorie content of the restaurant food they ordered. Even among the treatment group who received calorie labels, the average absolute value of percent error in their report is 34.2%.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w27126