The possibilities of reducing food choice to improve the economical (profits), nutritional/psychological (people) and environmental (planet) performance of university residential college foodservices
In the contestable field of choice reduction, this research developed an understanding about the dominant attitudes towards the potential of menu choice reduction initiatives in a residential college foodservice case study setting. More specifically, it explored the attitudes and perceptions of stakeholders based on a residential college at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand (i.e. warden, foodservice staff and residents). Given that choice reduction is likely to be hugely controversial as individuals are inherently attracted to choice, it is important to find out firstly what choice means to stakeholders before developing and implementing practical recommendations. Q-methodology was identified as an appropriate method for exploring attitudes to such a contentious topic as this. This method incorporated the benefits of both qualitative and quantitative research. It provided a foundation for the study of subjectivity, individuals’ viewpoints, opinions, beliefs and attitudes. Overall, 35 participants, 29 residents and six staff completed the Q-sort activity and post Q-sort interview. Three factors emerged from the Q-study’s inverted factor analysis, representing three dominant viewpoints. These were: the “Believers” (believers in the benefits of choice reduction – environmentally, nutritionally and socially aware); the “Resisters” (meat loving, hungry, choice reduction resisters); and the “Emotives” (choice reduction opponents). Interestingly, there was consensus across the factors that decreasing choice would not necessarily mean that the quality of the foodservice would be decreased. Rather, study participants thought that the quality might actually increase as chefs could focus less on quantity and more on quality. The majority of the participants agreed that they do not need everything that is currently offered in the buffet menu and indicated that they usually take more than what they need. Participants could see a number of benefits of choice reduction such as reduction in food waste, healthier eating and easier decision making. However, there was still reluctance towards choice reduction. There were attitudinal barriers to adopting choice reduction initiatives that needed to be overcome to avoid dissatisfaction with the foodservice. Based on the current stakeholder attitudes revealed by this study, the case study residential college could immediately consider implementing less controversial choice reduction initiatives such as smaller trays (or better still no trays), education on portion size in relation to health and “Meatless Mondays”. As residential college foodservice managers come under increasing pressure to improve their foodservices’ Triple Bottom Line performance (3Ps: Profit, People and Planet), more radical choice reduction measures, such as moving away from a large buffet offering may be an option, although staff would have to tread carefully with how any such move would be “sold” to its customers (i.e. the students). The innovative research approach adopted in this research study, in what has to date been a very new and unexplored area, has provided a solid foundation on which to build further research investigating choice reduction within the wider foodservice sector.
Advisor: Mirosa, Miranda; Spence, Heather
Degree Name: Master of Dietetics
Degree Discipline: Human Nutrition
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Choice; Reduction; Foodservice; Menu; Triple; Bottom; Line; Q-methodology
Research Type: Thesis