Take it or leave it: How an opt-out strategy for doggy bags affects consumer food waste behavior and restaurant evaluations

Erica van Herpen*, Ilona E. De Hooge, Anna de Visser-Amundson, Mirella H.P. Kleijnen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Plate leftovers are an extensive source of food waste in restaurants. One solution to reduce this waste would be that consumers take plate leftovers home (i.e., use doggy bags). Yet, existing social norms in many countries and feelings of shame currently inhibit consumers from using doggy bags. The present research examines whether switching to an opt-out system, whereby consumers are offered a doggy bag by default, can decrease these feelings of shame and positively affect doggy-bag uptake. Yet, next to these positive effects, negative firm-related consequences may occur. Consumers may perceive a limitation in their freedom of choice, which can negatively affect their evaluations of the restaurant and its service staff. A series of five experiments (total n = 1166) shows that an opt-out strategy increases doggy-bag uptake more (on average 74% uptake compared to 27% for an opt-in strategy) than offering an explicit choice to consumers (average 49% uptake), but that an opt-out strategy indeed has negative effects on restaurant and service staff evaluations. Our research also shows that by (1) giving consumers a subordinate choice (e.g., a choice between different types of doggy bags) and by (2) providing friendly service when presenting the doggy bags, restaurants can ensure an effective doggy-bag uptake without detrimental effects on restaurant or service staff evaluations, or on household food waste. These findings provide new and valuable insights for research on food waste and on influence strategies towards sustainable behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number129199
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Volume325
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • Evaluation
  • Firm-related outcomes
  • Food waste
  • Influence strategies
  • Shame

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