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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

If food were charged by the ounce when dining out, would that change the eating habits in the US, or would people just stay home and stuff themselves?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26783points) August 8th, 2014

I was at a medical center’s cafeteria, after I was done with the lab, and went to the sandwich bar, because I did not want a whole lot, just something to kill the hunger. I made what I thought was a simple sandwich, at least compared to those my friends would have made, and when I checked out, I was told to put it on a scale and based off the weight of the sandwich, I was charged how much the sandwich was. I would not have paid that much for a sandwich that simple anywhere else. I was thinking if it were a sandwich any of my friends made they would have been charged around $7 to $10 dollars on average. That got me thinking, if one went out for steak, pasta, etc. and was charged by the total weight of the meal and not by what the meal is, would that change the way people dinned out in the US? Would they eat less, smaller portions, would they pile it on and just pay the price, would they forgo eating out and just stay home where they can stuff themselves to their hearts content?

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16 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

That already exists. Markets like Whole Foods have food bars where you pay by the pound. Sbarro, the fast food place, also has food by the pound.

I do think people would eat smaller portions and heathier food if many more restaurants charged by the pound/ounce/gram.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I’m sure it would make a difference. Especially with the size of portions you eat over there. When we go out for dinner and I want a steak, I always choose the smallest on the menu. Not because of cost but because I don’t want a 300g plus steak. I’d appreciate more control over portion size.

I watched a documentary recently and it argued one of the major causes of obesity was ‘upsizing’. It traced the emergence of this idea back to its source. I suspect most people have a distorted sense of what a normal portion size is. By normal I mean, the quantity of food we actually need to consume rather than the quantity of food we think we need to consume. Re-educating people about how much food the average body requires to function in our sedentary world would be helpful too.

pleiades's avatar

It would make a difference for… poor people?

jca's avatar

As someone who had weight loss surgery, I often think that I would love if restaurants served smaller versions of their plates. Kind of like child sizes, for less money of course. IKEA has decent quality child size meals.

I’m sure a lot of people would appreciate paying less for less food (and not just from a salad bar/hot food bar, but from an actual restaurant). Not everyone can eat 16 oz of steak, two cups of mashed potatoes and vegetables, plus salad, soup, bread, etc.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@pleiades, I’m not sure it would be limited to poor people. Certainly obesity appears to be more prevalent in people from low socio-economic groups but it’s not limited to the poor. For instance, many business people eat out a lot more than they would perhaps prefer. That can mean they’re eating too much food and too much rich and calorie heavy food. So being able to specify how much goes on their plate might be very appealing. It’s easy to say they could just leave the food but if it’s on your plate there’s more of a temptation to eat the food than if you can specify and limit how much lands on your plate. Eyes bigger than your belly type thing.

I have to travel quite a bit and I always seem to put weight on when I’m away and I’m cautious about what I choose from the menu. I usually spend the week after I get home being very frugal in terms of my calorie intake. I’m not poor and I eat in quality restaurants but as I mentioned previously, and as @jca said, it would be great to have the opportunity to have some say in terms of portion size. I don’t necessarily want to order an entree but I would often prefer a smaller version of a main course.

livelaughlove21's avatar

It hasn’t stopped me from getting a heaping bowl of frozen yogurt when I want it, that’s for sure. $5 for yogurt? I’ll take it.

JLeslie's avatar

@pleiades It is a huge misconception that people with money don’t care about what they spend. It is because they are very aware of spending that they have money. A Facebook friend of mine posted on a status that she “just saw a Bentley parked in front of the Malco for the matinee movie. Isn’t that strange?” I asked why strange. She thought someone who could afford a Bentley would not try to save money in a matinee. Why? I just don’t get it. Unless you meant poor people would be able to eat because they would be able to afford a small amount of food.

@jca I’ve been saying that forever. Luckily, some restaurants are making portions smaller to keep prices down, but still portions tend to be very large in American restaurants. My husband and I try to share when we both are ok with the same dish. It’s ridiculous. One entree is enough for two adults to share? Usually we add in a salad, extra side, or appetizer, but still. Many of my friends do it too. But, it’s not like I am always with my husband when I go out to eat. All too often I overeat, eating the whole thing, or have leftovers. Sometimes I can’t take the leftovers with me, which I find an annoying waste if food and money.

KNOWITALL's avatar

People would eat less out, but keep normal at home. We need to outlaw buffets, they got some real fatties there.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: When I go out to eat with my daughter, we’ll usually share a meal – I’ll eat the salad, she’ll have the soup. We’ll split the entree and sides. She’ll get dessert, and when she’s full, I’ll finish the dessert, or maybe I’ll get my own dessert. Saves money and eliminates leftovers.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

What exactly is the weight of great service?

jca's avatar

There’s a hospital cafeteria near here, and they have food by the pound. You want a lot of scrambled eggs? You’re going to pay more than someone who just wants a small scoop. Very smart idea. It’s probably easier to implement than a restaurant with table service, but I still think that child servings should not be just for children and should be not just hot dogs, hamburgers or chicken fingers.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The restaurants would never adopt that. Their MO is to serve enough for two people and charge for two people. It’s one of the reasons Americans are over weight. Too many people have this “Have to clean your plate” mentality. Well, they end up eating enough for two people! Of course they’re fat!

livelaughlove21's avatar

Blaming restaurants for people being overweight is ludicrous. Do we not have free will and self control? There’s always got to be someone else to blame.

Restaurants don’t make people fat. People make themselves fat. Plenty of us eat out occasionally, even cleaning our plates (I do), and by some miracle are able to control our weight.

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Dutchess_III's avatar

I didn’t say it was the restaurant’s fault. I agree whole heartedly that people make their own choices. Same with fast food.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca I almost never make it to dessert, and as a child we didn’t eat dessert regularly. However, I drank a ton of Coca Cola as a kid. I am glad I was not accustomed to eating dessert systematically after a meal though.

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