"The art of choosing"

Can too many selections scare off customers?

Over a bottle of pinot noir this weekend a couple of my friends and I started discussing our tastes in books. I said history. Another friend said history and fantasy. My roommate said books dealing with health and psychology. She then started telling us about a book she recently read about choices and how people make them.

The book was “The Art of Choosing” by Sheena Iyengar, a Columbia University professor and an expert on choice. I haven’t read the book, so I can’t comment on it. What I did find interesting, however, was the jam study and how the results could affect foodservice.

In the study, conducted in a grocery store in 1995, a table was set up from which the store’s customers could sample different types of jam. At various times, the table either displayed a large assortment of jams—24 to 28 varieties—or a small number—six. More people were drawn to the large sampling: 60% tested a jam when more varieties were offered compared to 40% when only six were offered. However, only 3% of customers who sampled the large assortment made a jam purchase, compared with 30% of those who sampled the small assortment. To Iyengar and her team, the customers who had the larger assortment of jams to sample were so confused and overwhelmed that when it came to actually making a selection for purchase they instead opted to not purchase a jam at all.

“These studies…have found fairly consistently that when people are given a moderate number of options (4 to 6) rather than a large number (20 to 30), they are more likely to make a choice, are more confident in their decision, and are happier with what they choose,” Iyengar wrote in her book.

That got me thinking about non-commercial serveries. When I talk with operators it’s often a point of pride when they mention how many options they have on a daily basis. According to the jam study, that could be a problem. So my question to you is: Are operators offering so many selections that it scares off customers? Are there so many choices that customers get flustered, can’t make a decision and end up going for a selection they eat all the time and are comfortable with? How do you deal with offering enough choice that customers feel they can select different options, without being overwhelmed by too many choices?

I’d love to hear from you: Does the jam study ring true in your operations? Is too much choice a bad thing for customers? Send me an email at bschilling@cspnet.com and let me know what you think.

menu development

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Sodexo has appointed Satya Menard as global CEO of its schools and universities segments.

Menard has been with Sodexo for 20 years, holding senior roles within the company such as CEO of benefits and rewards services for Central Europe and CEO of Central and South America for on-site services.

Most recently, Menard was CEO of service operations, a capacity in which he coordinated internal support to operations including service experts in facilities management, food, supply chain and information services and technology.

Menard will transition to the role beginning...

Sponsored Content
little caesars

From PODS ®.

Headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, Little Caesars® is the largest carryout-only pizza chain in the United States. Founded in 1959 as a single, family-owned restaurant, Little Caesars has become the third largest pizza chain in the world with stores in 23 countries and territories worldwide, including in each of the 50 U.S. states. Each day it serves more than three million pizzas to its customers.

All the equipment used by Little Caesars is supplied by Blue Line Distribution, a wholly owned subsidiary of the restaurant franchise. This includes foodservice...

Industry News & Opinion

A new law in Washington will expand Breakfast After the Bell programs throughout the state, the Daily Fly reports.

Signed into law on Wednesday by Gov. Jay Inslee, HB 1508 requires that schools in which at least 70% of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals offer Breakfast After the Bell by the time the 2019-2020 school year begins.

The food offered at breakfast must meet federal nutrition standards and can’t be made up of more than 25% added sugar. Schools must also give preference to food that is fresh and grown in the state.

The breakfast period can...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Southern California in Los Angeles will begin offering fresh kosher meals three times a week at its USC Village Dining Hall, the Daily Trojan reports.

The meals will be delivered to the dining hall every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening by a local kosher butcher beginning March 20. The butcher will also deliver sandwiches, salads and other kosher items to a marketplace on campus.

Around 15 Orthodox students who are on meal plans will be able to enjoy the meals, according to the Daily Trojan. Students can receive their meals at the cashier’s desk in...

FSD Resources