Workplace restaurant healthier options trial

29 February 2012

Article by John Mooney,Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy and Dionne Mackison, Centre for Public Health Nutrition Research, University of Dundee.

Increasing consumption of healthier meal options is a challenge that many caterers face. There is good evidence from published work in other countries that pricing discounts for healthier meals can be one way to encourage consumers to select healthy choices.

However, the practical ways in which incentives might be used and what impact they have remains to be tested in Scottish worksites.

A new feasibility study funded by the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy will explore ways that incentives might be used. The project will proceed in three phases:

  1. For each participating site, the researchers will explore with on-site caterers and staff representatives which pricing/promotion incentives would be most suitable to use in their workplace.
  2. Once the design has been agreed for the 12-week intervention, consenting patrons of the workplace restaurant will receive brief pre and post-trial questionnaires covering their expectations, impressions and perceptions of the promotion.
  3. Data will be collated for the sales of the healthier options, and the feedback from the questionnaires will be used to organise focus-group discussions about which aspects were felt to work well and which could have been improved.
Throughout the project, the emphasis will be on obtaining insights from both catering staff and employees on what works best as a means of incentivising healthier options in workplace restaurants.

The lessons learned are likely to have major implications for all those concerned with trying to improve dietary choices in general and for worksites in particular. This is an area that is recognised as having increasing importance in public health, and the results will be of widespread national and international interest.

If you are interested in learning more about the study or have experiences of similar interventions in your own catering facility, then we would love to hear from you (on 01382 496444 or d.z.mackison@dundee.ac.uk ).