"I'll have what he's having": Group ordering behavior in food choice decisions

Brenna Ellison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current research has focused on whether nutrition labeling and pricing policies (e.g., soda taxes) influence food decisions; however, less attention has been given to how peers influence one's food decisions. This study uses sales receipts from a full-service restaurant to take a closer look at how people order in groups. Results of the study revealed people may be less variety-seeking than previous research suggests; in fact, diners were more likely to seek variety when choosing an individual item, but not when choosing a menu category. In other words, diners wanted to be different from their dining companions, but not too different. This result was further confirmed with a model of food choice which shows diners derived more utility from an entrée when a fellow diner ordered an entrée in the same category. Interestingly, the presence of calorie labels on menus did not change the marginal utility of calories, suggesting peer effects may outweigh the effects of nutritional information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-86
Number of pages8
JournalFood Quality and Preference
StatePublished - Oct 2014


  • Food decisions
  • Group ordering behavior
  • Variety-seeking vs. conformism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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