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Going Trayless?

Trayless Cafeterias Lead to Less Salad and More Dessert

Trayless Cafeterias Lead to Less Salad and More Dessert

Diners in trayless cafeterias took less salad than diners with trays

To reduce food waste, consider changing the shape and size of the trays to be smaller rather than removing trays from cafeterias completely

Diners in trayless cafeterias should be conscious of food choices to make sure not to sacrifice healthy options

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Wansink, Brian & Just, David (2013). Trayless cafeterias—less salad and more dessert. Public Health Nutrition. 44(4), S20-S21.

Cornell University researchers Dr. Brian Wansink and Dr. David Just have found that some efforts to go green in the cafeteria may be making patrons fatter.  Recently many eateries at colleges, work places, and hospital have removed the trays in an effort to reduce food waste.  With trays diners were inclined to take a salad, entrée, and a dessert because the tray offers the convenience of getting more food in fewer trips. Without a tray diners are forced to leave one or more items behind, or to make several trips to the buffet. Unfortunately diners tend to leave the salad, but keep the dessert.

A university cafeteria alternated between tray and trayless service in two-week intervals. The dinner menu remained the same. On the first night, dinner service was conducted with trays as usual, while on the second night, there were no trays. After each diner completed his or her meal, his or her tray was collected and then precise measures of the food remaining were measured. In addition, diners were asked how many trips they had taken to the buffet.  The variables of interest were the percentage of people taking each of the salad, entrée, and dessert, and the grams of food each person wasted on each of the two days.

Trayless also means less healthy. Instead, use trays, but make them smaller

The results showed that the students were more reluctant to take a salad, as 18.3% fewer students took salads on the trayless day than the students on the normal day. Without trays, many patrons tried to compensate for having fewer items on their trays by taking more of the few items they took. Because of this students were less likely to eat all of their entrée (38.8% vs. 85.7%), salad (53.6% vs. 91.7%), or dessert (52.7% vs 90.7%)—though the amount of dessert remaining was insignificant.

As these results show, diners who go trayless are more likely to take less healthy options and waste more food than when they use a tray. The percentage of diners who took salads decreased, but not the percentage of diners who took dessert. This seems to indicate that going trayless may reduce waste at the expense of nutrition. A better means to reduce food waste would be to change the shape of the trays, make them smaller and introducing compartments where the different food types should go. Reducing waste and costs for an eatery should go hand-in-hand with making diners “slim by design.”

Summary by: Joanna Ladzinski