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Choice architecture to nudge diners to choose plant-based foods

DefaultVeg Strategies

DefaultVeg dining features plant-based foods as the default while still giving diners the choice to opt in to animal products.

Over the last decade, we, our partners, and researchers have experimented to identify the most effective ways to shift to plant-based foods in a variety of dining settings.

What these DefaultVeg strategies share in common is that they use choice architecture to nudge diners to select plant-based foods while preserving diners’ choices. This makes them easy to implement, cost-effective, and popular with diners and leaders.

When implemented, these nudges:

Make plant-based foods the easiest choice. For example,

  • Serve plant-based foods by default—diners who prefer can opt for animal products, preserving freedom of choice. Many studies show that defaults are the most effective nudge at reducing animal products.
  • Use plant-based patties by default in burgers—diners can request beef or chicken patties.
  • Use oat milk (or another plant-based milk) by default in blended coffee drinks—diners can request cow’s milk.
  • In a buffet, serve all animal products in bowls on the side, rather than mixed into the entrees, so diners can add them if they wish. Or, keep them in a specific area toward the end of a buffet line.
  • Charge extra for animal products—or at least don’t charge extra for plant-based products.
  • On event registrations, ask guests to opt in if they want animal products. Unless they opt in, they’ll receive plant-based meals.

Make plant-based foods the most visible. For example,

  • Place plant-based entrees at the front of the buffet
  • List plant-based entrees at the top of the menu.
  • Always have the “daily special” or promoted meals be plant-based.
  • Use tasty descriptors focused on flavors, textures, and ingredients, rather than focusing on how healthy or vegan it is.

Make plant-based foods the most plentiful. For example,

  • Increase the number of plant-based offerings. Aim to have 2-3 times more plant-based than meat dishes.
  • Switch to using plant-based mayo or frosting in every dish or baked good that uses them.
  • In fact any time a recipe can be easily made plant-based (e.g. by using plant-based milk or butter), do it—you will instantly become more inclusive!

You can try just one of these tactics the next time you serve food—or try more than one! Experiment to find the combination that will make your dining the most inclusive, sustainable and healthy for all of your guests.

That’s just a taste. If you’d like help picking the right tactics to use in your institution, contact us—we can help you get started, and connect you to our fantastic partners who can provide you with the support you need. And if you’ve tried any of these tactics, let us know what the results were! We love hearing about your successes, we’re available to troubleshoot techniques, and we’re always improving our knowledge to make our recommendations more effective. Reach out at [email protected]