Restaurant Receipts That Kindly Suggest Diners Make Better Food Choices

If you'd like a reminder of exactly how many calories and fat grams you're ingesting when you eat out, your prayers have been answered. 

SmartReceipt Inc.'s "Nutricate receipt" details each order's dietary impact, printing out a personalized account that includes the total number of calories, fat grams, carbohydrates and proteins that a diner has purchased.  

The customized receipts also display personal messages based on orders, like, "Low-fat milk is a great source of calcium, and you just had over 35 percent of your daily calcium requirement."

If you ordered mayonnaise on your burger, you could receive this message: "Holding the mayo on your sandwich will save you 150 calories and 10 grams of fat."

That may sound unnerving, but a recently-published report suggests that Nutricate's somewhat eery personal messages were effective in changing future customer behavior. 

According to Bloomberg, the report is the result of a pilot study conducted for over two years at Burgerville, a restaurant chain in the Pacific Northwest.

Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara found that diners receiving a Nutricate receipt became more likely to order apple slices instead of fries for their kids' meals, and pass up extra options for themselves, like cheese and sauce—both of which were among the receipts' common dietary recommendations. 

However, Nutricate didn't affect every aspect of customer behavior—calorie counts per transaction tended to stay the same because diners continued to order high-calorie entrees. 

But overall, researchers calculated that there was a 2.1 percent reduction in the average amount of cholesterol per order.

In the past, simply displaying calorie counts on menu boards hadn't proven to be an effective means of inciting healthier choices among diners. What makes the receipt a more effective option, at least according to the study's authors, is that it provides personalized information to customers and cites specific, small actions they can take to improve their choices.

Obviously, not everyone who eats out would appreciate a running commentary on their meals, but 84 percent of the Burgerville diners who were surveyed "liked or loved" their personalized receipts. And for others who would welcome some nutritional guidance, Nutricate will happily present it to them.

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Original article from TakePart