Calorie postings on menus result in more health mentions in online restaurant reviews, study finds


11 Oct 2017 --- In 2008, New York City introduced a rule mandating calorie postings for chain restaurants that was intended to induce healthier choices by highlighting the calorie content of restaurant meals. A new study now shows that this regulation can not only shift consumers towards healthier alternatives when inside a restaurant, but can also have spillover effects on other customers reading online reviews by potentially redirecting them towards healthier restaurants and food items.

A forthcoming study in the INFORMS journal Marketing Science, a leading scholarly marketing publication, investigated whether the calorie posting on menus has broader spillovers by impacting consumer evaluations of the restaurant. 

The authors analyzed 761,962 restaurant reviews across 9,805 restaurants on an online restaurant review website in New York City from 2004 to 2012. Using text-mining methods, the authors examined the change in the mentions of health in reviews over time before and after the calorie posting rule went into effect. 

To rule out the possibility that the health mentions increase was simply due to increased public interest in health issues over time, they compared the change in topics discussed for chain restaurants, relative to non-chain restaurants which were not mandated by the rule to post calorie information. The authors found a significant increase in the proportion of reviews that discussed health for chain restaurants, relative to non-chain restaurants.

The authors also explored in greater detail the source of the increase in health topics. They found that it was largely driven by new reviewers who were previously not active in posting reviews, but began to post more reviews after the mandate. 

Co-author Dinesh Puranam of the University of Southern California notes that "interestingly, the increase in health discussion in opinions was not confined to restaurants in more affluent localities, commonly associated with more health-conscious consumers. This is an encouraging sign of the success of the rule across the socioeconomic divide - especially given the greater incidence of obesity among lower socio economic classes."

New York City recently expanded the rule to beyond chain restaurants to also include fine dining restaurants. 

Our finding that "calorie posting on menus impact online reviews is significant for this rule expansion since consumers are even more likely to consult reviews for fine dining restaurants than for chain restaurants that they habitually visit. Whether this will have an impact on calorific content of items on fine dining restaurant menus of restaurants, of course, remains to be seen," Narayan notes.

Kadiyali cautioned that more work is needed to study whether the increased discussion of health topics actually do lead to greater choice of healthier restaurants. "It is possible that the health conscious consumers may choose healthier restaurants while the less health conscious may avoid them. In this case, health benefits across the population may be ambiguous. Nevertheless, our study suggests that online reviews are a useful place to look for potential changes in consumer behavior due to this rule," she says.

The study, "The Effect of Calorie Posting Regulation on Consumer Opinion: A Flexible Latent Dirichlet Allocation Model with Informative Priors," is co-authored by Dinesh Puranam of the University of Southern California, Vishal Narayan of the National University of Singapore and Vrinda Kadiyali of Cornell University.

Related Articles

Business News

"Aggressive transformation": Nellson announces US$70m investment in new facility

16 Mar 2018 --- A US$70 million investment in a new nutrition bar manufacturing plant in Ontario, California has been announced by Nellson Nutraceutical (Nellson), a North American formulator and manufacturer of branded and private label nutritional bars and functional powders. 

Nutrition & Health News

Product purity: Entire NOW sports range gains "Informed Sport" certification 

16 Mar 2018 --- NOW Sports – US manufacture of natural products – has invested in the detection of banned substances across its brand, which includes more than 150 sports nutrition products. The "clean" certification comes from a third party, known as Informed Sport, who have 54 years’ experience in anti-doping control.

Nutrition & Health News

Beverage innovation: Targeted nutrition, collagen and functional botanicals star at Expo West

15 Mar 2018 --- Hyper-customization, collagen and functional botanicals were among the most innovative and prevalent trends at this year’s Expo West, according to an insights report released by Imbibe, a US beverage development company. 

Regulatory News

Health claim victory: EFSA confirms physical performance benefits of carbohydrate solutions

14 Mar 2018 --- The European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) has published a scientific assessment confirming the beneficial health effects of glycemic carbohydrates on the improvement of physical performance during high-intensity and long-lasting physical exercise. As a result, sports nutrition companies will be able to include on-pack claims regarding the performance boosting capacity of products containing carbohydrate solutions (CHO). 

Nutrition & Health News

Sweet and salty chicken: UK lobby group calls for warnings on salt-laden ready meals

13 Mar 2018 --- UK lobby group Action on Salt is demanding health warnings on Chinese takeaways, and ready meals after a new survey reveals their “staggeringly high” salt levels. With some of the meals containing “as much salt as five Big Macs,” the group is calling on Public Health England (PHE) to “create a level playing field”: getting tougher on setting salt targets, making front of pack labeling mandatory and putting warning labels on restaurant menus. 

More Articles