Renske Hermans took up the challenge to study this intriguing question for her master thesis project. This year, she is going to graduate from the Master Management, Economics and Consumer Studies at Wageningen University. In cooperation with Hotelschool The Hague we conducted a six-week field study in their fine dining restaurant 'Le Debut'. While enjoying organic and locally produced food in this restaurant, up to 50 guests are served by the school's international students. The kitchen is also run by hotel management students under guidance of instructors.
|Restaurant Le Debut at Hotelschool The Hague|
We called our combo-menu 'Menu Gastronomique', and developed one meat combo-menu and one vegetarian combo-menu. For the vegetarian menu, we took meat replacers of the famous Dutch ‘Vegetarian Butcher’, known for his innovative meat substitutes with a spectacular taste and texture. For two non-consecutive weeks, the vegetarian ‘Menu Gastronomique’ was available for €25.50. For a similar period and price, a meat ‘Menu Gastronomique’ was offered. As a control, we also had a 2-week period without any combo-menus, although diners could still select the same vegetarian and meat dishes. During these six weeks, we kept track of sales data. After dinner, we also asked diners to fill out a brief questionnaire about their dining experience and the menu card.
|Menu card in one of the periods of this nudge field study|
Unfortunately, our menu card nudge did not persuade a larger group of diners to go for the vegetarian dish. Less than one-fifth of the diners selected the vegetarian dish, and this number was not significantly different across the three menu card-periods. There are a few potential explanations. For example, it could be that we did not reach enough so-called ‘flexitarians’; meat-reducers who consume meat only several days a week. It might also be that this nudge was too gentle to convince diners to try something new. Previous research showed that meat replacers are typically seen as less tasty while at the same time dining out tends to grant people a license to indulge. Perhaps our nudge can seduce consumers in other settings, such as a workplace canteen.