When I go into a restaurant and I see that the calories and nutrition facts are posted on the menu, it makes me think twice about what I order. But, if those facts are not there it usually will not cross my mind. I have never looked up nutrition facts about a restaurant online, even though they are required to post them. With obesity becoming such a huge problem, calorie intake and nutritional facts are definitely something that people should be considering when making choices about what to eat. Christina A. Roberto, MS, Henry Agnew, and Kelly D. Brownell, PhD did an observational study on this.
The study included four chain restaurants: Starbucks, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Au Bon Pain. These four places were required to provide nutrition facts somehow in their restaurant and the scientists would observe how many actually looked at the facts and used them to make a decision about what to order. The scientists said, “We hypothesized that a negligible percentage of consumers would access this information” (Agnew, Brownell, Roberto). They would observe everyone who came into the restaurant (besides children who didn’t apply) during 1.5 hour intervals and mark down anyone who looked at the nutrition facts. They observed 2 different locations for each restaurant in both an urban and suburban area.
In McDonald’s and Burger King the facts were put on a wall poster that people had to turn and look at. Starbucks provided nutrition pamphlets, and one of the McDonalds did as well. The facts at Au Bon Pain were on a computer in the restaurant that customers had to touch the screen to see. Customers were marks down if they turned to read the posters, if they picked up a pamphlet, or if they touched the computer screen. A total of 45 intervals were observed with 4,311 customers. This was a blind experiment because the customers did not know they were being observed.
The results showed that out of 1,501 customers in McDonald’s, 1 woman and 1 man accessed the nutrition facts before ordering, and 1 woman and 1 man accessed the facts after ordering. In Burger King, out of 482 customers, 1 woman an 2 men looked at the poster. Out of 1,671 customers in Au Bon Pain 1 woman accessed the information. In Starbucks, not one of the 657 people observed looked at the information. The scientists concluded that if nutrition facts are provided, they must be easily visible and accessible such as on a big menu board that people are already looking at.
Since this study was observational, we cannot definitively rule out the options of third variables and chance, but with only 6 people out of 4,311, it seems very likely that the information would be correct. The results are consistent with the hypothesis and the people who did look at the nutrition facts seemed to be the anecdotes. Posting the nutrition facts did not cause the customers to look at them. The customers could have already looked up the nutrition facts online and did not need to see them again, but there is no way to tell that. Most of the time people are not extremely concerned with nutrition facts in a fast food restaurant because they already know it’s unhealthy. Either it is a once in a while type thing, they are on a tight budget, or they just do not care. With that being said, it is still better to know what you are putting into your body. In conclusion, if people are going to look at nutrition facts they need to be visibly accessible to them in an easy manner.