Opportunities and barriers for smaller portions in food service: lessons from marketing and behavioral economics

Int J Obes (Lond). 2014 Jul;38 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S19-24. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2014.85.


This paper uses the frameworks and evidence from marketing and behavioral economics to highlight the opportunities and barriers for portion control in food service environments. Applying Kahneman's 'thinking fast and slow' concepts, it describes 10 strategies that can be effective in 'tricking' the consumer's fast cognitive system to make better decisions and in triggering the slow cognitive system to help prevent the fast system from making bad decisions. These strategies include shrinking defaults, elongating packages, increasing the visibility of small portions, offering more mixed virtue options, adding more small sizes, offering 'right-sized' standard portions, using meaningful size labels, adopting linear pricing, using temporal landmarks to push smaller portions and facilitating pre-commitment. For each of these strategies, I discuss the specific cost and revenue barriers that a food service operator would face if the strategy were adopted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior*
  • Consumer Health Information
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Food / economics
  • Food Industry / economics
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Restaurants* / economics
  • Serving Size* / psychology