Effects of Environmental Factors in Nudging School Children Towards More Healthful Food Choices in School Cafeterias

Courtney Szocs, Dipayan Biswas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


We examine how queuing pattern, in terms of how children line up at school cafeterias, influences their eating behavior. To elaborate, we compare single-line queuing, in which students stand in one central line and the student at the head of the line is sent to the first available cashier, with multi-line queuing, where a separate queue is formed in front of each cashier; we investigate how these two types of queuing influence students’ healthful food choices. A critical difference between multi-line and single-line queuing is that in the former case, individuals spend a higher amount of time near the sales counter and hence have greater amount of time to go through the items and reflect on their choices than in the latter case, where they are close to the sales counter practically only right at the time of their purchase. We tested our hypotheses with the help of a field study at a high school cafeteria in one of the largest school districts in the USA. The study was carried out in collaboration with the school district administration. Over 1000 students are served daily at this school cafeteria. We analyzed data across two different months, with two different queuing patterns in place. That is, in one random month, there were multi-line queues, while in another random month, there were single-line queues, whereby all the students lined up in one central area and then they were sent to different sales counter based on availability. The results of the field experiment in the school cafeteria show that multi-line queues facilitate a greater degree of healthful choices than single-line queues. We theorize that this effect is driven by lower time pressure and a greater degree of systematic processing with multi-line queues. In terms of implications, while prior studies have examined a host of different factors influencing choices between healthy and unhealthy options, the present research is the first one to examine the effects of queuing behavior in a cafeteria context. The findings suggest that utilizing multi-line queues might be one way to influence choices towards more healthful options.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDevelopments in Marketing Science
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages2
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameDevelopments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science
ISSN (Print)2363-6165
ISSN (Electronic)2363-6173

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Marketing
  • Strategy and Management

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