Some readers who have liked the cafeteria metaphor at the beginning of Nudge, have wondered what an actual Nudge cafeteria would look like. Here are a few possibilities:
1) Tables for two. People tend to eat more in groups than when they are alone because they mimic the eating habits of others. But there is some evidence that the amount of food someone consumes is a linear function of the number of people sitting with them.
2) A discount for calling in your order from upstairs (or wherever your office happens to be). Calling in your order serves as a commitment strategy for eating healthy, rather than being tempted by the french fries or the cookies as you try to find the salad bar. The discount would simply be added as a traditional incentive to entice more people to take advantage of it. To limit impulse checkout purchases, pick-up would probably have to be at a separate window.
3) Brighter lights. Environmental factors of all kinds like noise, smells, temperature, and lighting are known to affect food consumption. Brighter lights limits limit the length of time people spend at a meal, but they are superior (in terms of discomfort) to alternatives like foul odors or loud music. People might be more likely to take their food back to their desk, which might even increase their daily productivity.
4) Keep the popular desserts, lose the unpopular ones. One of behavioral economists’ favorite violations of classical economic theory is how a choice between A and B if affected by the introduction of alternative C. Classical economists say C, whether it is there or not, shouldn’t matter when someone chooses between A and B. This frequently seems not to be the case. The more enticing unhealthy alternatives there are at the dessert bar competing with hot and cold lunch items, the lower the value of the salad compared to the burger, thus making the healthy decision less likely. So as not to incite too many charges of heavy-handed paternalism, only the least popular desserts would be removed from the menu. It is hard to know whether the unpopular items were flatly unappetizing or just unappetizing compared to other desserts. To help find out, dessert policy would be open to continuous revision through good feedback loops.